Ukraine’s recent battlefield wins in the east and south of the country are a “significant operational accomplishment,” a top Pentagon official said Tuesday, the same day the Biden administration announced it would transfer another $625 million of weapons to Kyiv.
The gains come as Vladimir Putin moved on Tuesday to formally and illegally annex four regions of Ukraine — Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson — which include areas retaken by Kyiv over the last few days.
“Even as the Russian government moves legislation today to claim parts of Ukrainian territory illegitimately, the reality on the ground is that the Ukrainian armed forces continue to reclaim territory and consolidate their claims,” said Laura Cooper, the Pentagon’s deputy assistant secretary for Russian, Ukrainian and Eurasian affairs.
Cooper praised Ukraine’s liberation of the strategic railway hub of Lyman in the east over the weekend as Kyiv’s forces push into the Donbas region. Over the past 24 hours, Ukraine has made major gains in the south of the country as well, around the Kherson region, Cooper said, confirming Ukrainian reports of their progress.
The latest arms package, the first of the new fiscal year, is tailored to fit Kyiv’s needs as forces continue to retake territory on two fronts. It includes four High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, bringing to 20 the total number systems the U.S. has provided. It also includes 200 MaxxPro Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles, a major increase from the 40 the Biden administration transferred to Kyiv in August.
The new MRAPs, which are well-known for protecting troops from roadside bombs in Iraq and Afghanistan, will provide Ukraine with a “resilient capability for transporting troops in heavily mined terrain,” Cooper said.
The package, which involves drawing down equipment from existing stocks, is the first since Sept. 15. It also includes artillery, precision-guided and mortar rounds, small-arms ammunition and anti-personnel mines.
The new weapons will provide Kyiv with the “additional capability and munitions that it needs to maintain momentum in the east and the south, including additional artillery and precision fires,” Cooper said.
Ukraine has recently renewed calls for Washington to send longer-range rockets for the HIMARS — the Army Tactical Missile System, or ATACMS — but so far the administration has refused.
The Pentagon assesses that Ukraine can hit “the vast majority of targets on the battlefield” with the shorter-range rockets being provided, including in Crimea, Cooper said.
“Just to be clear, Crimea is Ukraine,” she added.