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U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin attends a meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group at Ramstein Air Base on April 21, 2023 in Ramstein-Miesenbach, Germany. (Thomas Lohnes/Getty Images)
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Key developments on April 26:

  • US to allocate additional $6 billion in military aid to Ukraine
  • Source: Ukraine destroys Russian Ka-32 helicopter at Moscow airfield
  • Ukraine retrieves bodies of 140 fallen soldiers
  • El Pais: Spain to send Patriot missiles to Ukraine
  • US envoy to OSCE: Russian 'double-tap' attacks have killed at least 90 first responders since April 2022

The U.S. will allocate $6 billion for military assistance for Ukraine under the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative (USAI), the U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced on April 26 after the U.S.-led Ukraine Defense Contact Group (UDCG) meeting, also known as the Ramstein format.

"This is the largest security assistance package that we have committed today," Austin said during the press conference, adding that it will allow the U.S. "to procure new capabilities for Ukraine" from its own industry.

The newly announced military aid package includes interceptors for Patriot and NASAMS air defense systems, anti-drone systems, and support equipment, according to Austin.

The U.S. Defense Secretary also said that the package contains a "significant amount" of artillery ammunition, as well as air-to-ground weaponry, without specifying the numbers.

After the press conference, the U.S. Defense Department also published the extended list of military aid to be provided to Kyiv through the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative.

Apart from those items Austin unveiled, the package also includes munitions for laser-guided rocket systems, rockets for HIMARS launchers, multi-mission and counter-artillery radars, precision aerial and demolition munitions, Switchblade and Puma Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS), 155 mm and 152 mm artillery rounds, among others.

Politico previously reported on April 25 that the U.S. was preparing to announce a new weapons contract worth around $6 billion in military aid to Kyiv. The weapon supplies are not expected to reach Ukraine for "several years" since the funding is allocated under the USAI.

Instead of sending Ukraine weapons from current U.S. stocks, the USAI requires the Pentagon to send contracts to U.S. defense companies to produce new supplies.

When and how will US aid impact the front lines in Ukraine?
After almost seven months of delays, the U.S. Congress finally approved $61 billion in aid for Kyiv, mostly in the form of military assistance. The legislation was promptly signed by U.S. President Joe Biden, and shortly after, the Pentagon announced the first defense package of $1 billion, contain…

Source: Ukraine destroys Russian Ka-32 helicopter at Moscow airfield

A Russian multirole helicopter Ka-32 was destroyed at the Ostafyevo airfield in Moscow overnight on April 26, Ukraine’s military intelligence agency (HUR) reported.

An intelligence source confirmed to the Kyiv Independent that the helicopter was destroyed as a result of a HUR operation.

Ukrainian forces regularly conduct drone strikes and sabotage acts on Russian territory, targeting military assets, oil refineries, and industrial facilities. Kyiv usually doesn’t officially comment on attacks inside Russia.

Russia's Kamov Ka-32 helicopter can be used as passenger and cargo transport, to aid search and rescue operations, building construction, loading and unloading ships, and emergency evacuations.

"The destroyed unit of aviation equipment was used by the aggressor state in the interests of the Moscow aviation center, in particular, to support the operations of the Russian invading army," HUR said on Telegram.

The Ostafyevo airfield, located in Moscow's southern suburbs, is owned by Russia's Defense Ministry and operated jointly with Gazpromavia, which is part of the country's state-run energy giant Gazprom, according to HUR.

HUR said that the helicopter was burnt down and shared video showing a fire that purportedly engulfed the aircraft.

The Kyiv Independent could not immediately verify these claims.

Source: Ukraine hits Russia’s Engels air base. Can it change how Russia attacks?
Russia’s Engels air base has once again come under attack on April 5 after what the Kyiv Independent’s sources in the military intelligence claimed was a drone strike on one of the Kremlin’s most strategically important military installations, deep inside Russia. According to a source in the milita…

Ukraine retrieves bodies of 140 fallen soldiers

Ukraine has repatriated the bodies of 140 soldiers who died fighting against Russia, the Coordination Headquarters for the Treatment of the Prisoners of War reported on April 26.

In a post on Telegram, the headquarters said 112 had fought in the Donetsk direction, 20 in the Luhansk direction, five in the Sumy direction, two in the Zaporizhia direction, and one in the Kherson direction.

"After identification, the bodies of our defenders will be handed over to their families for a dignified burial," it added.

The effort to retrieve the fallen defenders was conducted in collaboration with several government and military agencies, including the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU), the Interior Ministry, the State Emergency Service, and the Armed Forces.

The headquarters also thanked the International Committee of the Red Cross for their assistance.

The Geneva Conventions dictate that people who lost their lives during war are entitled to a dignified burial.

In a previous transfer on March 29, the headquarters reported that the bodies of 121 fallen Ukrainian soldiers had been returned for burial.

Kyiv has only recently released information about the total number of Ukrainian soldiers killed during the full-scale invasion, with President Volodymyr Zelensky in February saying the number was around 31,000.

"Each person is a very big loss for us. 31,000 Ukrainian soldiers died in this war," the president said, adding: "It is very painful for us."

PTSD crisis looms as troop shortages take toll on Ukrainian soldiers’ mental health
There was nothing extraordinary about the mission until combat medic Olena found herself frozen in fear. The situation wasn’t particularly dangerous, but she couldn’t bring herself to do her job as her fellow soldiers were getting wounded. “I found myself trapped in the dugout corner, trembling li…

El Pais: Spain to send Patriot missiles to Ukraine

Spain will send a small number of critically needed Patriot missiles to Ukraine, the El Pais newspaper reported on April 26, citing unnamed government sources, but has ruled out sending the system's anti-aircraft launchers.

The move is the latest from Western nations responding to calls from Kyiv for more air defenses in the face of escalating Russian missile and drone attacks on cities across the country.

The exact number of Patriot missiles Spain is sending has not been reported, but El Pais said the number would be small as the country only has around 50 in total in reserve.

"The transfer of a small number of missiles has come after the defense ministry refused to hand over to Ukraine the battery it has had deployed since 2013 on the Turkish-Syrian border," El Pais said.

"It will be a very limited number, as the Spanish war reserve is around 50 units, and interceptors are very expensive," it added.

U.S.-made Patriots are highly effective at intercepting Russia's ballistic and cruise missiles. According to President Volodymyr Zelensky, Ukraine needs 25 Patriots to protect the country from Russian attacks.

"We need to step up our commitment to Ukraine," a Spanish diplomatic source told Reuters on April 25.

Germany said on April 13 that it would provide Ukraine with one more Patriot air defense system, bringing the total number of Patriots supplied by Germany to three.

But hopes that Greece would follow suit were dashed on April 25 when Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said his country would not supply Ukraine with Patriots or S-300 missiles.

Kyiv is also pushing Washington for the joint production of Patriot air defense systems, Ukrainian Ambassador to the U.S. Oksana Markarova said in an interview with European Pravda on April 23.

"This is a major global strategic task and an element of economic cooperation. But it is also an increase in combat capability and production of the capabilities that Ukraine needs immediately," the ambassador said.

Representatives of Ukrainian and U.S. businesses have already reportedly met to discuss investment and cooperation not only in weapons, but also in materials needed to launch the production.

"We should start producing a lot of products ourselves, at least components, and at most already completed products," Markarova added.

Greece won’t send Patriots to Ukraine
Greece will not supply Ukraine with Patriot air defense systems or S-300 missiles, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said on April 25.

US envoy to OSCE: Russian 'double-tap' attacks have killed at least 90 first responders since April 2022

Russian "double-tap" strikes have killed more than 90 Ukrainian first responders and injured close to 350 civilians since April 2022, said Timothy Hanway, the acting U.S. envoy to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), in an address on April 25.

A "double-tap" attack is a military tactic in which an initial strike is followed by a delayed second strike intended to kill or injure first responders who arrived at the scene. It is a war crime.

Since a report issued shortly after the beginning of the full-scale invasion, Hanway said that Russia's usage of this illegal tactic has been increasing.

"In March and April (of 2024) alone, Russia’s iterative attacks hitting first responders killed nearly 30 rescue workers in Odesa, Kharkiv, and Zaporizhzhia and wounded more than 20," Hanway said, citing the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

Oleksandr Khorunzhyi, a spokesperson for Ukraine's State Emergency Service, previously told the Kyiv Independent that as of April 16, a total of 91 of the service's employees had been killed and another 351 wounded since the beginning of the full-scale invasion.

Khorunzhyi said some of these casualties were the result of "double-tap" strikes but said the precise figure was still being calculated.

Russia's usage of "double-tap" strikes preceded its full-scale war in Ukraine, having been employed extensively in Syria and as far back as the wars in Chechnya.

"The Russian government is following its own example from Syria (in Ukraine)," said Hanway.

‘Double-tap’ attack. Understanding one of Russia’s cruelest tactics in Ukraine
Hitting a building, waiting for first responders and the media to arrive, and hitting the same place again to target those who came to put out the fire, help the victims, or document a potential war crime is a well-honed tool of Russia in its wars. This ruthless and illegal

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