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US says 20 countries offer new arms packages for Ukraine

By AFP - May 23,2022 - Last updated at May 23,2022

A mortar explodes next to the road leading to the city of Lysychansk in the eastern Ukranian region of Donbas, on Monday, amid Russian invasion of Ukraine (AFP photo)

WASHINGTON / MOSCOW — Some 20 countries offered new security assistance packages for Ukraine to battle invading Russian forces in a meeting of allies on Monday, US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin announced.

In their second gathering, nearly four dozen countries and organizations forming the Ukraine Defence Contact Group met online to discuss helping Ukraine, and 20 nations pledged arms, ammunition and other supplies to support Kyiv.

The group was briefed by Ukraine Defence Minister Oleksiy Reznikov on the current situation of the three-month-old war, in which the two sides are fighting along a long front line over territory Russia has seized in Ukraine's east and south.

"Today, together with Minister Reznikov and his team, we've gained a sharper and shared sense of Ukraine's priority requirements and the situation on the battlefield," Austin said.

"Many countries are donating critically needed artillery ammunition, coastal defence systems and tanks and other armoured vehicles," he said.

Others, he said, are offering training for Ukraine's military.


He said that Denmark committed to send Ukraine Harpoon anti-ship missile systems, and the Czech Republic was offering attack helicopters, tanks and rocket systems.

But Austin would not provide details of what is included in a new $40 billion US assistance package for Ukraine, amid speculation that it could include high-precision, long-distance rockets that could be used to hit Russian territory.

Meanwhile, authorities in the Moscow-controlled Ukrainian region of Kherson announced on Monday the introduction of the ruble as an official currency alongside the Ukrainian hryvnia.

The region’s capital Kherson was the first major city to fall to Russian forces after the start of Moscow’s military operation in Ukraine on February 24.

“Today a decree will be issued that formalises the introduction in the Kherson region of dual currency,” the pro-Moscow head of the regional administration, Vladimir Saldo, said in a video address.

“This means all traders have the right to — and later will be obliged to — display prices in two currencies, in hryvnias and Russian rubles,” he said.

“The Russian ruble exchange rate will be twice that of the hryvnia, two Russian rubles for one hryvnia.”

He added that in the next few days a Russian bank would open a branch in Kherson and offer accounts to businesses, which could show Ukrainian documents.

Russian officials and Moscow-appointed authorities have said that the southern Ukrainian region of Kherson, which provides a land bridge to Crimea — is likely to become part of Russia.

In a number of Ukrainian cities including Kherson, Mariupol and Berdyansk, Moscow has installed local administrations in charge of bringing back a semblance of normal life and laying the groundwork for a future with Russia.

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