The US Defense Department on Friday announced a new $775 million arms package for Ukraine aiming to help Kyiv turn the tables and begin regaining territory occupied by Russian forces.
The Russian offensive which began February 24 has been brought to a standstill, a senior Pentagon official told reporters, and the new package includes a range of precision missiles, anti-armor weaponry, surveillance drones, artillery and mine-clearing equipment that could boost Ukrainian offensive operations.
“You are seeing a complete and total lack of progress by the Russians on the battlefield,” the official said, speaking to reporters on the condition of anonymity.
The new package, the 19th since the war began, comes as Ukraine forces have used ally-supplied precision-guided weapons to strike far behind enemy lines, demolishing several dozen Russian arms depots and command centers since mid-June.
More recently, the Russians have suffered major damage at an airfield and other facilities deep in occupied Crimea, and this week an arms depot nearly 50 kilometers (30 miles) inside Russia’s Belgorod Province exploded.
Defense experts say those incidents could indicate Ukraine’s ability to deliver blows deep behind Russian defenses and that Kyiv is prepared to go on the offensive, six months into the war.
The new list of arms seems to be “for when the Ukrainians are ready to try a major advance,” defense strategy expert Phillips O’Brien wrote on Twitter.
More Javelins, Surveillance Drones
The package includes rockets for the Himars systems used to strike the Russian depots and air-to-ground HARM missiles that home in on radar installations.
Also included: 15 Scan Eagle surveillance drones, 1,000 Javelin anti-armor weapons, 1,500 TOW anti-armor missiles, and fresh artillery and artillery ammunition.
“We want to make sure that Ukraine has a steady stream of ammunition to meet its needs, and that’s what we’re doing with this package,” the defense official said.
According to the US Institute for the Study of War, which publishes a daily analysis of the fighting, Russian forces have barely advanced in weeks on the southern and eastern fronts, and appear to be on the defensive after Ukraine demonstrated an ability to strike deep in Russian-held territory.
“Russian military leadership is likely increasingly losing confidence in the security of Crimea” after multiple explosions heavily damaged the Saki airbase and the Black Sea Fleet headquarters, ISW said.
In addition, it said, the Russians face an increase in attacks inside occupied territories by Ukraine partisans.
The precision-guided Himars rockets, which can fly as far as 80 kilometers (50 miles), are part of that shift.
“You are seeing the Russians still paying a high price with Ukrainian attacks, especially using that Himars system,” the official said.
NEWS: Additional Defensive Weapons to be Shipped to Ukraine, Says Official https://t.co/5Xvq0IB1pn
— Department of Defense 🇺🇸 (@DeptofDefense) August 19, 2022
The Pentagon official admitted Ukraine’s forces have also not advanced much, and continue to take significant casualties from Russian shelling.
ISW says Russians are now threatening Bakhmut, a key target city in the Donetsk region.
And where they see Ukraine forces threatening, the Russians are mining areas to protect their ground lines of communication, it added.
The US official said the package also includes substantial mine-clearing equipment.
At this point, the overall effect of US and allied arms provided to Ukraine is a “hollowing-out” of Russian forces “with implications for their longer-term sustainability,” the official said.
“We are seeing this overarching picture of Russian forces being much more vulnerable than they thought they were.”