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US and Germany bow to Zelensky by agreeing to supply Ukraine most advanced weapons systems yet

Russian forces close to capturing city that is key to Donbas assault


A man pushes a bicycle near a building destroyed by bombs in the Luhansk region of Ukraine. Photo: Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters

A man pushes a bicycle near a building destroyed by bombs in the Luhansk region of Ukraine. Photo: Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters

A man pushes a bicycle near a building destroyed by bombs in the Luhansk region of Ukraine. Photo: Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters

The US and Germany have both pledged to equip Ukraine with the advanced weapons it has long craved for shooting down aircraft and knocking out artillery, as Russian forces closed in on capturing a key city in the east.

Germany said it would supply Ukraine with up-to-date anti-aircraft missiles and radar systems, while the US announced it will provide four sophisticated, medium-range rocket systems and ammunition.

The US is trying to help Ukraine fend off the Russians without triggering a wider war in Europe. The Pentagon said it had received assurances Ukraine would not fire the new rockets into Russian territory.

The Kremlin accused the US of “pouring fuel on the fire.”

Western arms have been critical to Ukraine’s success in stymieing Russia’s much larger and better-equipped military, thwarting its effort to storm the capital and forcing Moscow to shift its focus to the industrial Donbas region in the east.

But as Russia bombards towns in its inching advance in the east, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has repeatedly pleaded for more and better weapons and accused the West of moving too slowly.

Andriy Yermak, the head of the Ukrainian president’s office, hailed the new Western weapons.

“I’m sure that if we receive all the necessary weapons and strengthen the efficient sanctions regime we will win,” he said.

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The new arms could help Ukraine set up and hold new lines of defence in the east by hitting back at Russian artillery pieces that had been battering towns and cities and by limiting Russian airstrikes, said retired French General Dominique Trinquand, a former head of France’s military mission at the United Nations.

“The Nato countries — the European nations and the Americans — have progressively escalated the means that they are putting at Ukraine’s disposal, and this escalation, in my opinion, has had the aim of testing Russian limits,” he said.

“Each time, they measure the Russian reaction, and since there is no reaction, they keep supplying increasingly effective and sophisticated weaponry.”

Military analysts say Russia is hoping to overrun the Donbas before any weapons that might turn the tide arrive.

It will take at least three weeks to get the precision US weapons and trained troops onto the battlefield, the Pentagon said. But Defence Undersecretary Colin Kahl said he believed they would arrive in time to make a difference in the fight.

The rocket systems are part of a new $700m package of security assistance for Ukraine from the US that also includes helicopters, Javelin anti-tank weapon systems, radars, tactical vehicles and spare parts.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Moscow did not trust assurances Ukraine would not fire on Russian territory.

“We believe that the US is deliberately and diligently pouring fuel on the fire,” he said.

The weapons announcements came as a regional governor said Russian forces now control 80pc of Sievierodonetsk.

It is a city that is key to Moscow’s efforts to complete its capture of the Donbas, where Ukrainian forces and Russian-backed separatists have fought for years and where the separatists held swaths of territory even before the invasion.

Luhansk Gov. Serhiy Haidai said Russian troops were advancing in the city amid fierce street battles with Ukrainian forces, though he noted that in some districts the Ukrainian troops managed to push the Russians back.

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