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US announces $1.85 billion in military aid to Ukraine
U.S. State Secretary Antony Blinken announced $1.85 billion in military aid to Ukraine in a package that will include a Patriot missile battery and precision-guided bombs for fighter jets on Dec. 21.
“The $1 billion drawdown will provide Ukraine with expanded air defense and precision-strike capabilities, as well as additional munitions and critical equipment that Ukraine is using so effectively to defend itself on the battlefield,” Blinken’s press release read.
The U.S. Defense Department also announced an additional $850 million in security assistance to Ukraine under its Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative.
The aid comes amid reports that President Volodymyr Zelensky is visiting Washington, D.C., to meet with U.S. President Joe Biden.
The visit is Zelensky's first overseas trip since Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine began on Feb. 24.
The Patriot missile system would be the most advanced surface-to-air missile system the West has thus far provided to Ukraine.
Earlier on Dec. 16, Russia's Foreign Ministry warned of “unpredictable consequences” if the U.S. sent Patriot missiles to Ukraine, saying the move would be a "provocation."
The U.S. State Department responded by saying Russia is single-handedly responsible for any provocations in Ukraine.
According to the officials, despite the reluctance of U.S. officials to send Patriots to Ukraine, Russia's constant attacks on civilian infrastructure on Ukraine, particularly energy infrastructure that has caused blackouts and loss of heat during winter, as well as Ukraine's urgent calls for more air defense, convinced the U.S. to send the missile systems.