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Ukraine war latest: Kyiv to receive Swedish surveillance aircraft in largest aid package

by The Kyiv Independent news desk and Kateryna Denisova May 29, 2024 9:31 PM 8 min read
A Swedish ASC 890 radar reconnaissance and control aircraft. (Saab AB)
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Key developments on May 29:

  • Sweden announces $1.3 billion in military aid for Ukraine in largest package ever
  • Finland, Canada, Poland don't prohibit Ukraine from striking targets in Russia with their weapons
  • Pressed on strikes inside Russia, Blinken says US stance will 'adapt and adjust as necessary'
  • 19 killed, 54 injured as rescue operations after Kharkiv hypermarket attack end
  • Russian drone attack causes partial blackout in Rivne Oblast

Editor's note: The article was updated at 11:10 a.m. local time on May 30 with a clarification by the Swedish prime minister's spokesperson that the package will include two ASC 890 aircraft.

Sweden's Defense Ministry announced a fresh package of military aid for Ukraine valued at 13.3 Swedish krona ($1.3 billion) on May 29.

It is Sweden's largest tranche of military assistance since the beginning of the full-scale invasion.

The package includes two ASC 890 radar reconnaissance and control aircraft, the "entire Swedish stock" of Pansarbandvagn 302 infantry fighting vehicles, artillery shells, anti-air missiles, and materials to help maintain and replenish previously donated military equipment, the defense ministry said and the prime minister's spokesperson said.

The package also includes financial assistance, satellite communication resources, and a mandate by Sweden's Total Defense Research Institute to help Ukraine develop its own research capabilities.

President Volodymyr Zelensky expressed his gratitude to Sweden for the latest round of military assistance, saying that "these contributions are critical to Ukraine's defense and resilience."

"It is also important that Swedish assistance not only saves Ukrainian lives, but it also helps to ensure long-term peace and security in Europe," he added.

The announcement came a day after Sweden announced it was providing Ukraine with a new energy aid package worth 615 million Swedish krona ($58.2 million).

The Swedish government said earlier in May that it was planning to allocate 75 billion Swedish krona ($7 billion) in military support to Ukraine from 2024 to 2026.

With this proposal, Stockholm's civilian and military aid to Ukraine since the outbreak of the full-scale war will amount to over 100 billion Swedish krona (over $9 billion).

Swedish Defense Minister Pal Jonson told the Kyiv Independent in March that discussions on a possible supply of its Gripen jets to Ukraine are underway after Sweden's entry into NATO, but made no definite pledge.

Jonson then told the TT news agency on May 28 that Sweden had been asked by partners to wait with possible plans on sending Gripen jets to Ukraine, as the focus is now on providing Kyiv with F-16 aircraft.

In March 2024, Sweden officially joined NATO after a lengthy application process triggered by Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine and was immediately vocal in its calls for other alliance members to do more.

Sweden has previously given Ukraine a variety of advanced military equipment, including the Archer self-propelled howitzer and CV90 infantry fighting vehicle.

Belgium to provide Ukraine with 30 F-16 aircraft by 2028, first to arrive in 2024
The announcement accompanies news that President Volodymyr Zelensky will visit Belgium on May 28 to sign a bilateral security agreement.

Finland, Canada, Poland don't prohibit Ukraine from striking targets in Russia with their weapons

Representatives of Finland, Canada, and Poland issued separate statements on May 29 saying Ukraine can use their weapons to strike targets on Russian territory.

Kyiv can strike military targets on Russian territory with Finnish-supplied weapons as it has a right to self-defense under the U.N. Charter, Finnish Foreign Minister Elina Valtonen said in an interview on May 29 with the Finnish newspaper Uusi Suomi.

"Finland has not set any special restrictions on its aid to Ukraine, but assumes that it will be used in accordance with international law," Valtonen said.

The issue of Ukraine striking military targets in Russia using Western-provided weapons came to a head after representatives of countries like the U.S. and Germany said they opposed it due to fears of escalation.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg urged an end to Ukrainian allies' bans on Kyiv using their weapons to strike Russia.

The NATO Parliamentary Assembly adopted on May 27 a declaration in support of NATO allies lifting restrictions that prohibit Ukraine's use of Western-supplied weapons against military targets inside Russia.

Canadian Foreign Minister Melanie Joly said at a press conference on May 29 saying Ottawa does not oppose Kyiv using Canadian-supplied weapons to strike Russia.

Polish Deputy Defense Minister Cezary Tomczyk echoed her message, telling Polish radio station Radoi Zet that Warsaw does not have any restrictions on Ukraine's use of Polish-supplied weapons in Russia.

“Ukraine was brutally attacked by Russia, so it has the right to defend itself. In turn, we are a country that has decided to help it with this," he said.

Ukrainian officials have ramped up the pressure on their allies in recent weeks, urging them to allow Kyiv to use Western weapons to strike military targets in Russia.

"We see every point of concentration of Russian troops. We know all the areas where Russian missiles and combat aircraft are launched," Zelensky said on May 26.

Ukraine urges allies to lift Western arms ban on hitting targets inside Russia. Will they?
Following a new Russian offensive in Kharkiv Oblast, Ukraine is increasingly raising pressure on its allies, urging them to lift restrictions on the use of Western-provided weapons against military targets inside Russia. Months before the offensive, Kyiv had publicly pledged not to use Western-made…

Pressed on strikes inside Russia, Blinken says US stance will 'adapt and adjust as necessary'

Washington will "adapt and adjust as necessary" its ban on allowing Ukraine to hit targets inside Russia with U.S.-supplied weapons, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on May 29.

The restriction prevented Kyiv from attacking Russian forces massing near Kharkiv Oblast for their offensive launched earlier in May, with advanced U.S. weaponry like ATACMS missiles.

In recent days a growing number of Ukraine's allies as well as NATO have said Ukraine should be allowed to strike inside Russia, ramping up pressure on Washington to do the same.

Most recently, representatives of Finland, Canada, and Poland issued separate statements on May 29 saying Ukraine can use their weapons to strike targets on Russian territory.

Speaking on a visit to Moldova on the eve of NATO talks in Prague, Blinken said that as battlefield conditions have changed during Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the U.S. has "adapted and adjusted" the support and weapons it has provided.

When pressed on whether this meant the U.S. would change its policy on striking targets inside Russia, he said: "At every step along the way we've adapted and adjusted as necessary. And so that's exactly what we'll do going forward.

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"We're always listening, we're always learning and we're always making determinations about what's necessary to make sure that Ukraine can effectively continue to defend itself."

Earlier this month, The New York Times (NYT) reported Blinken was pushing the Biden administration for a change in policy after a "sobering" visit to Kyiv.

The U.S. State Department began a "vigorous debate" inside President Joe Biden's administration on this policy after Blinken's two-day visit to Ukraine's capital, which took place only days after Russia launched the new offensive. It was the situation in Kharkiv Oblast that changed Blinken's position, the NYT wrote.

The news outlet noted that the proposal is still "in the formative stages" and that it is unclear how many other high-ranking officials in Biden's team will support it.

The plan would include permitting strikes against Russian military facilities but perhaps not oil refineries and other infrastructure that Ukraine has been hitting with homemade drones, according to the outlet.

Macron: Ukraine must be allowed to strike bases on Russian territory from which missiles are fired
“We think that we should allow them to neutralize military sites where missiles are fired, from where... Ukraine is attacked,” Macron said at a press conference with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz. “If we tell them (Ukraine) that you are not allowed to target the place from which missiles are fired,…

19 killed, 54 injured as rescue operations after Kharkiv hypermarket attack end

Search and rescue operations after Russia's attack on the "Epitsentr" hypermarket in Kharkiv have ended, Interior Minister Ihor Klymenko said on May 29.

According to Klymenko, Russia's attack on the hypermarket on May 25 killed 19 people – 12 men and seven women, including a 17-year-old boy and a 12-year-old girl. Fifty-four people were reportedly injured.

Russian forces reportedly struck the Kharkiv hypermarket with two guided aerial bombs. A third bomb, which had not unexploded, was later found at the site of the attack.

Sixteen relatives of people missing after the attack provided biological samples for examination, Klymenko said. A total of 100 tests were reportedly conducted.

"It was not easy. Special equipment was needed around the clock to search for those killed among the ashes, and they were quickly identified with the help of a DNA laboratory," the minister said.

Kharkiv and the surrounding oblast are particularly vulnerable to guided bomb attacks due to the proximity to the Russian border, as they are launched from aircraft in Russian airspace.

Russia has dropped nearly 10,000 guided bombs in Ukraine since the start of the year, according to Defense Minister Rustem Umerov.

What will Russia’s attack on Kharkiv printing house mean for Ukraine’s publishing industry?
The aftermath of Russia’s May 23 attack on Kharkiv’s Faktor Druk printing house shocked Ukrainians: mountains of charred Ukrainian books covered its blackened floor. The strike had destroyed over a quarter of the company’s warehouse. The 4,000 square meter building is owned by the Faktor group

Russian drone attack causes partial blackout in Rivne Oblast

An overnight Russian drone attack caused a power outage in some parts of Rivne Oblast, Governor Oleksandr Koval reported on the morning of May 29.

An air raid alert was active in Rivne Oblast, in northwestern Ukraine, between 12:40 a.m. and 2 a.m.

Air defense forces shot down a drone, but debris fell on an energy facility.

"The protection system was activated, which led to the blackout of some populated areas," Koval said.

There were no reports of casualties and power has since been restored to the affected areas, Koval said.

A recent uptick in Russian strikes put a heavy strain on Ukraine's power grid, with several power plants being destroyed or disabled.

Due to resulting power deficits, Ukraine began implementing scheduled shutdowns on May 15.

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