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Austin calls on allies to strengthen Ukraine's air defense amid infrastructure strikes

by Martin Fornusek November 22, 2023 6:15 PM 3 min read
Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal and U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin meet at the Pentagon on April 12, 2023. (Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal / Telegram)
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U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin called on Kyiv's allies during the 17th Ramstein-format meeting on Nov. 22 to strengthen Ukraine's air defenses ahead of the coming winter months.

Austin, who visited Kyiv earlier this week, opened the latest meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group (UDCG) in a virtual format with the participation of around 50 countries.

" We're focused on supporting Ukraine as it continues to fight through this winter and defend its critical infrastructure," Austin said, adding that both the U.S. and Germany recently announced new defense aid packages.

"We've already organized coalitions focused on building up Ukraine's Air Force and its information technology capabilities, and today we'll discuss the progress that's been made since our last meeting in developing a new capability Coalition on ground-based air defense," he added.

Ukrainian officials warned that Russia is preparing large-scale attacks on the country's infrastructure once the temperatures drop. For that reason, Kyiv appealed to its partners to provide further air defenses to repel these strikes.

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The 17th Ramstein-format meeting was announced by Washington earlier in November. Pentagon spokesperson Sabrina Singh said that the U.S. support for Ukraine continues even though the packages are growing smaller. Congress is yet to approve the $61 billion in additional funding for Ukraine proposed by the White House.

According to Austin, the UDCG's members have already provided Ukraine with over $80 billion in security assistance since early 2022.

Ukraine's Defense Minister Rustem Umerov said at the meeting that Russia would not stop its aggression on its own: "The only language that Moscow understands is force. We have learned this language well."

He stressed that further support from allies would help Ukraine protect millions of innocent lives.

"Our people are waiting for the opportunity to return home. Rebuild their homes. To be reunited with their families," Umerov added.

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