US sending bridge-launchers to Ukraine for spring fight
WASHINGTON (AP) —
The U.S. announced a new $400 million military aid package for Ukraine on Friday that for the first time includes armored vehicles that can launch bridges — allowing troops to cross rivers or other gaps as Russian and Ukrainian forces remain entrenched on opposite sides of the Dnieper River.
The war had largely slowed to a grinding stalemate during the winter months, with Russia and Ukraine firing at each other from across the river. Both sides are expected to launch offensives as temperatures warm.
This round of aid will be drawn from existing U.S. weapons stockpiles so it can arrive in Ukraine faster. The U.S. and allies are trying to rush additional support to Kyiv to best position it for intensified spring fighting.
The Armored Vehicle Launched Bridge is a portable, 60-foot (18-meter) folding metal bridge that is carried on top of a tank body. Providing that system now could make it easier for Ukrainian troops to cross rivers to get to Russian forces.
Because Ukraine also continues to face shortages of ammunition in the intense firefight, this aid package, like previous ones, includes thousands of replacement rounds, such as rockets for the High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems and 155mm Howitzer rounds. This package also includes demolition munitions and equipment for clearing obstacles to help Ukraine break through dug-in lines.
Since Russia invaded Ukraine a year ago, the U.S. has sent in more than $32 billion in weapons and equipment.
The U.S. is also roughly tripling the number of Ukrainian forces it is training on advanced battle tactics at a base in Germany, to help them punch through entrenched Russian lines. At the Grafenwoehr training area, Ukrainian forces run through a five-week course that prepares them to conduct advanced combined arms maneuvers with Bradley fighting vehicles, M109 Paladins and Stryker armored personnel carriers. The first 600 Ukrainian troops completed the course last month and 1,600 more are in training.
The aid will also include spare parts and equipment for vehicle maintenance and repair.
The announcement comes on the heels of a brief meeting Thursday between U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov at a gathering of top diplomats from the Group of 20 nations in New Delhi. It was the highest-level in-person talk between the two countries since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. But there was no indication of any movement toward easing the intense tensions between the two nations.
Blinken said he told Lavrov the U.S. would continue to support Ukraine for as long as it takes.
Lavrov, who did not mention speaking with Blinken when he held a news conference after the meeting, told reporters Moscow would continue to press its action in Ukraine.