The US is rushing to send weapons and equipment to Ukraine needed to hold the Russian forces in the rural and open Donbas terrain, a far different battlefield from the urban fighting where Ukrainian forces held an advantage, ABC News reported. The new $800 million military aid package for Ukraine that President Joe Biden announced on Thursday could make the difference.
“Now they’ve launched and refocused their campaign to seize new territory in eastern Ukraine, and we’re in a critical window now of time where they’re going to set the stage for the next phase of this war,” Biden said of the Russian offensive.
With Ukrainian forces focused in the east, Russia intends to push down from the north, near the city of Izium, and up from the south, surrounding the Ukrainian defenders to “finish them or force them to surrender,” a senior US official said. If Russia takes the beleaguered city of Mariupol in the south, it could free up thousands of troops to join the push north to trap Ukraine forces, ABC News quoted the official.
Also read: Russia launches offensive in Donbas; Ukraine braces for 2nd phase of war
Although Russia and Ukraine have been battling over Donbas for eight years, Russia’s concentrated flow of troops and weapons into the region could bring “a whole different level of fighting,” Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said. He added, the US is sending Ukraine weapons and systems that are not only useful for the rural eastern terrain, but that the Ukrainians can use in the fight without much training.
Russia changing tack
Russia, meanwhile, is trying not to repeat blunders it committed in northern Ukraine, and will enjoy certain geographic advantages in Donbas, the report said. Since withdrawing its troops in the north to focus on Donbas, Russia has been putting equipment and support forces in place ahead of its combat troops.
Another advantage for Russia is that it is fighting closer to its own border, while Ukraine will now have to transport heavy weapons and ammunition from its western border all the way across the country.
To stand a chance fighting in the open Donbas landscape, Ukraine will need more long-range weapons and the ability to quickly move troops on the ground and in the air, ABC News quoted Mick Mulroy, former deputy assistant secretary of defense for the Middle East and ABC News contributor.
The US has sent Ukraine $3.4 billion of aid since the beginning of the invasion, including many thousands of shoulder-fired missiles, small arms and ammunition, body armour, and medical supplies. The two most recent packages, dedicating $800 million of aid each, announced April 13 and 21, were tailored to reflect the new battle space.
Howitzers, radars part of package
“It’s different,” Biden said on Thursday. “It’s flat, it’s not in the mountains, and it requires different kinds of weapons to be more effective.” To that end, the US is sending 90 of its 155mm howitzers, which officials say will begin arriving over the weekend. The 155mm guns will bring Ukrainian forces extra firepower, as also the ability to be better resupplied by the West.
The US is also sending 14 radar systems that can detect incoming artillery and other indirect-fire attacks. About 50 Ukrainians are being trained on the US howitzers outside of the country. ABC News quoted US officials as saying that other systems being sent to Ukraine will also require a small period of training, likely to also take place outside of the country. Officials have declined to specify where such training could take place, citing operational security concerns. The US has also offered Ukraine hundreds of armoured personnel carriers that have tracks similar to those of tanks, as well as armoured Humvees.
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