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International military aid for Ukraine accelerates, Pentagon says

Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark A. Milley speaks with reporters at the Pentagon on Monday. (Alex Brandon/AP)

The Pentagon announced Monday that about 20 countries have pledged new security assistance packages for Ukraine, including new anti-ship missiles, additional attack helicopters and tanks.

Forty-seven nations now have joined the Ukraine Defense Contact Group, which was organized by the Pentagon to help address Kyiv’s immediate and long-term needs as it seeks to beat back the Russian military’s protracted invasion.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Monday singled out Denmark for providing Ukraine with a Harpoon launcher and missiles to help defend its coast, and the Czech Republican for agreeing to send helicopters, tanks and rocket systems. Other participating nations, he said, have donated artillery rounds and armored vehicles, or agreed to provide the Ukrainians with training and assistance to maintain its military systems.

The group is scheduled to meet again June 15, on the sidelines of a meeting of NATO defense ministers.

Russia tries to rebound in Ukraine as prospects for victory fade

In the last several months, the United States has sharply increased its presence in Europe, expanding from 78,000 troops in the fall to 102,000 now, said Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark A. Milley, appearing alongside Austin.

There are over 15,000 U.S. sailors positioned in the Mediterranean and Baltic Seas on 24 surface combatant vessels and four submarines, a significant uptick from the six surface combatants there last fall, he said. There are 12 fighter squadrons and two combat aviation brigades in the region as well.

President Biden ordered the removal of U.S. troops from Ukraine before Russia’s invasion in late February. He has said repeatedly that the United States would not directly participate in the war, though U.S. troops continue to train Ukrainian forces elsewhere in Europe.

Milley addressed a report published Sunday by the Wall Street Journal indicating that the Pentagon was drafting plans to provide Special Forces troops to help defend the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv. The proposal, he said, was still “at a relatively low level” in the Defense Department and had not yet been briefed to senior officials.

“At the end of the day a reintroduction of U.S. forces into Ukraine would require a presidential decision, so we’re a ways away from anything like that,” Milley said.

War in Ukraine: What you need to know

The latest: Russian President Vladimir Putin signed decrees Friday to annex four occupied regions of Ukraine, following staged referendums that were widely denounced as illegal. Follow our live updates here.

The response: The Biden administration on Friday announced a new round of sanctions on Russia, in response to the annexations, targeting government officials and family members, Russian and Belarusian military officials and defense procurement networks. President Volodymyr Zelensky also said Friday that Ukraine is applying for “accelerated ascension” into NATO, in an apparent answer to the annexations.

In Russia: Putin declared a military mobilization on Sept. 21 to call up as many as 300,000 reservists in a dramatic bid to reverse setbacks in his war on Ukraine. The announcement led to an exodus of more than 180,000 people, mostly men who were subject to service, and renewed protests and other acts of defiance against the war.

The fight: Ukraine mounted a successful counteroffensive that forced a major Russian retreat in the northeastern Kharkiv region in early September, as troops fled cities and villages they had occupied since the early days of the war and abandoned large amounts of military equipment.

Photos: Washington Post photographers have been on the ground from the beginning of the war — here’s some of their most powerful work.

How you can help: Here are ways those in the U.S. can support the Ukrainian people as well as what people around the world have been donating.

Read our full coverage of the Russia-Ukraine war. Are you on Telegram? Subscribe to our channel for updates and exclusive video.