Nearly four dozen nations have committed to offering new weapons systems and other security assistance to Ukraine as its defence forces continue to push back against Russian troops, US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin has said.
Mr Austin announced the new weapons transfers following a meeting of defence ministers for the 24-country Ukraine Contact Group, during which the group received a briefing from Ukraine Defence Minister Oleksiy Reznikov.
Speaking to reporters at the close of the meeting, Mr Austin said attendees had “gained a sharper and shared sense of Ukraine’s priority requirements and the situation on the battlefield”.
“Many countries are donating critically needed artillery ammunition, coastal defence systems and tanks and other armoured vehicles. Others came forward with new commitments for training,” he said.
The US defence secretary said Italy, Greece, Norway and Poland have announced donations of artillery systems and ammunition, while the Czech Republic has donated attack helicopters, tanks, and rockets.
Mr Austin also revealed that Denmark has committed to provide Ukrainian forces with the Harpoon anti-ship missile system, a Boeing-made cruise missile which can be launched “over the horizon” and targeted using Global Positioning System targeting data.
The Harpoon, which is reported to be able to strike surface ships at a distance of approximately 120-150 nautical miles from a launch site, can be fired from mobile land-based launchers, and would significantly upgrade Ukraine’s ability to combat Russia’s Black Sea fleet.
Such an upgrade would boost Ukraine’s efforts to protect the Black Sea port of Odessa from a Russian amphibious attack, and could even possibly be used to strike at Russia’s Black Sea fleet at its’ home port in the Russian exclave of Sevastopol.
But Mr Austin stressed that the provision of new artillery and ammunition to Ukraine’s defence forces has proved most valuable.
“The nature of the fight, as you’ve heard us describe a number of times is … really shaped by artillery in this phase,” he said. “And we’ve seen serious exchanges of artillery fires over the last several weeks”.