Western Allies Pledge Precision Rockets, Missile Systems to Kyiv

Western allies pledged precision rockets and missile systems to Ukraine on Friday, after President Volodymyr Zelensky called for sophisticated weapons to help retain control of the embattled eastern city of Bakhmut.

The European Union agreed to introduce price caps on Russian petroleum products to try to further limit Russian President Vladimir Putin‘s war chest by targeting his key exports.

The announcements came shortly after Zelensky told a summit with EU leaders in Kyiv: “No one will surrender Bakhmut. We will fight as long as we can.

“If weapon (deliveries) are accelerated — namely long-range weapons — we will not only not withdraw from Bakhmut, we will begin to de-occupy Donbas,” he said of the eastern region of Ukraine.

The United States on Friday announced a new $2.2-billion package of arms and munitions, which the Pentagon said included a new rocket-propelled precision bomb that could nearly double Kyiv’s strike range against Russian forces.

The ground-launched small-diameter bombs (GLSDB), which can fly up to 150 kilometres (93 miles), could threaten key Russian supply lines, arms depots and air bases far behind the front lines.

They potentially give Kyiv’s forces the ability to strike anywhere in the Russian-occupied Donbas, Zaporizhzhia, and Kherson regions, as well as the northern part of occupied Crimea.

However, “the delivery of the GLSDB likely won’t be for several months due to contracting, production, and delivery timelines”, said Pentagon spokesman Lt Col Garron Garn, declining to say how many would be delivered.

France and Italy will deliver mobile surface-to-air missile systems, the French defense ministry said, in response to an urgent request from Kyiv to help protect “civilian populations and infrastructure from Russian air attacks.”

The systems, called MAMBA or SAMP, are a vehicle-mounted battery of medium-range missiles designed to offer protection from airborne threats such as missiles and manned or unmanned aircraft.

Ukrainian Defence Minister Oleksiy Reznikov, who had requested the weapons, tweeted his gratitude, saying the systems would “help us save thousands of lives” from Russian attacks.

Kyiv is also asking for fighter jets.

It has already secured promises from the West for deliveries of modern battle tanks and, after months of hesitation, Germany authorized the delivery of Leopard tanks.

Not a Military Target

There was no let-up in fighting in Bakhmut, the front line of a prolonged battle between Ukrainian and Russian forces.

Throughout Friday morning, AFP journalists heard a steady exchange of small-arms fire and the pounding of mortar shells to and from Russian positions.

An American humanitarian medic was killed in the city when his evacuation vehicle was hit by a missile, according to Global Outreach Doctors, with whom he was working.

The 33-year-old victim, Pete Reed, was a former US Marine Corps rifleman who also worked as a paramedic, according to the organization’s founder, Andrew Lustig.

Several others were reportedly hurt in the strike.

Local man Oleksandr Tkachenko, 65, said it was “clear” the car, which was destroyed, was not a military target.

Residents trying to rescue the occupants had also come under attack, he added.

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