WASHINGTON (Dispatches) – The U.S. Department of Defense has announced it will fund T-72 tanks sent to Ukraine, deepening its interference in the war in defiance of repeated warnings by Russia.
The refurbished T-72 tanks are part of a $400 million military assistance package by the U.S. that also includes armored vehicles, drones and a budget to refurbish air missiles. It will bring the Biden administration’s total commitment to Kiev to nearly $19 billion.
The additional military, ground and air capabilities come as Ukrainian forces are reportedly pushing forward an offensive to retake the Moscow-controlled Kherson region in southern Ukraine.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has called for NATO to supply tanks.
Zelensky tweeted that Ukraine is “thankful to [President Biden] and the people of [the United States] for another $400 military assistance package.”
Pentagon deputy press secretary Sabrina Singh said the T-72 tanks will all come from the Czech Republic. The United States will pay for 45 of them to be refurbished, while the Netherlands will pay to refurbish the other 45.
Singh said some of the tanks are expected to be delivered by the end of December.
White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters on Friday that Ukraine is making “incremental progress” in the south.
“There is some incremental progress by the Ukrainians in the south and, quite frankly, up in the northeast as well, as they continue to try to push the Russian lines back even further,” he said.
Kirby added that the Russian lines are “largely static and deepening”.
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday announced that civilians need to be evacuated from Kherson, where Russian forces have been evacuating since mid-October.
Meanwhile, UK military-intelligence operatives are reportedly working to create and train a covert terrorist force in Ukraine assigned to attack Russian targets in Crimea on behalf of the Kiev government.
Working through a private British intelligence services firm called Prevail Partners, the operatives signed an agreement with the Odessa branch of the Security Service of Ukraine (SSU) to build the so-called “partisan” terror army, The Grayzone reported, citing leaked documents detailing the plans.
In another development, the Group of Seven advanced economies has warned Russia against, what it calls, Moscow’s potential use of non-conventional weapons during its ongoing war in Ukraine.
“Any use of chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons by Russia would be met with severe consequences,” the group’s foreign ministers said in a statement on Friday after wrapping up two days of talks in the western German city of Münster. The G7 comprises the United States, the UK, Canada, Germany, France, Italy, and Japan.
“We also reject Russia’s false claims that Ukraine is preparing a radiological ‘dirty bomb,’” the statement added.
Russia and Ukraine have reciprocally accused each other of plans to deploy such devices during the conflict, which began in February.
Dirty bombs, which are also known as Radiological Dispersal Devices (RDD), are not as potent as nuclear weapons but can disperse radioactive materials throughout the targeted areas upon explosion.
The G7’s statement alleged that the UN’s nuclear watchdog had carried out inspections across Ukraine and had found no evidence showing that Kiev was harboring any such devices.