US offers additional military aid; Blinken makes surprise visit to Kyiv

US offers additional military aid; Blinken makes surprise visit to Kyiv
A handout photo made available by the presidential press service shows Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (left) shaking hands with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken at a meeting in Kyiv, Ukraine, 8 September 2022. (Photo: EPA-EFE / presidential press service handout)

US President Joe Biden held a video call on Thursday with allies including leaders of the Group of Seven nations, the Nato military alliance and the European Union. The talks, focusing in part on ways to bolster Europe’s energy supplies, came on a day when Washington announced more than $2.8bn in additional aid for Ukraine and its neighbours and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken made a visit to Kyiv.

The Pentagon has sent Ukraine its most accurate artillery shell, the GPS-guided Excalibur, according to budget documents. A plan to replenish the US stock of Excaliburs acknowledges for the first time that the Pentagon has been supplying Ukrainian forces with the shell.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said his country’s army had recaptured a few towns in the northeastern Kharkiv region, without elaborating. A Ukrainian armed forces spokesman estimated the taken territory at 700 square kilometres. 

Key developments  

On the ground

Russian forces carried out continuous missile and air strikes, damaging infrastructure in the eastern and southern parts of Ukraine, the Ukrainian General Staff reported. Russia hit the northern city of Kharkiv with rockets again overnight, Interfax-Ukraine said, citing local authorities. The Institute for the Study of War said that Ukrainian forces were probably exploiting Russia’s deployment of forces away from the Izyum-Kharkiv area to retake territory and threaten Russian ground lines of communication there.   

Biden, allies discuss Russian ‘weaponisation’ of energy 

Biden and allied nations considered ways to bolster European energy supplies amid Russian threats to cut off fossil fuel exports, which have triggered fears of a crisis on the continent. 

Biden and his counterparts “discussed Russia’s weaponisation of energy and additional steps to secure sustainable affordable energy supplies for Europe. They committed to continued close consultation on this issue,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters.

The leaders also spoke about supporting Ukraine militarily and economically after the US announced more than $2.8-billion in additional aid for the nation and its neighbours. They also reaffirmed support for the “sustained imposition of costs on Russia to hold the Kremlin accountable for its aggression,” Jean-Pierre said. 

US military chief says Ukraine making ‘steady’ progress  

It’s too early to assess Ukraine’s southern counter-offensive, but Kyiv’s progress is “steady and deliberate,” US General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said after a meeting of the Ukraine Contact Group at Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany. 

The group met for the fifth time on Thursday and is positioning itself to back Ukraine’s self-defence for the “long haul,” US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin told reporters after the meeting. 

“We won’t let up in our support for Ukraine’s self-defence, not today, not tomorrow,” Austin said. Milley said Ukrainians have struck more than 400 Russian targets with the US-provided High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (Himars).

Ukraine’s GDP contracted by 37% in last quarter 

Ukraine’s GDP shrank at a faster pace in the second quarter, falling by 37% year-on-year as Russia’s full-scale invasion damaged production, disrupted supply chains, and displaced millions of people. It was the steepest decline since at least 2004. 

Ukraine’s economy ministry said GDP may fall by 33.2% for the whole of 2022. The partial unblocking of three Ukrainian Black Sea ports, which allowed grain exports over the past month, will help the situation, the ministry said. 

Ukraine says Norway to provide Hellfire missiles

Norway will provide additional equipment to Ukraine’s army, including Hellfire precision-strike missiles, Ukraine Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov tweeted from a meeting of the Ukraine Contact Group at Ramstein Air Base in Germany.  




Ukraine says it has recaptured 700 square kilometres of territory 

Ukrainian troops have moved forward as far as 50km into Russian-held territories near Kharkiv in the country’s northeast this week, said Oleksiy Hromov, a spokesman for the Ukrainian armed forces.

Advances near Kramatorsk were about 2kms, and closer to 3km near Slovyansk. Heavy fighting continued near the Russia-seized city Kherson in Ukraine’s south, Hromov said at a briefing. 

Kyiv’s troops liberated more than 20 localities near Kharkiv, Hromov said. In all, he estimated recently liberated areas at more than 700 square kilometres of territory near Kharkiv and along the Southern Buh axis. 

Poland, Baltics target Russia visas 

Poland and the Baltic states will impose tough restrictions on visas issued to Russian citizens, calling the recent influx of tourists a “serious threat” to national security. 

The European Union nations that share a border with Russia said they’ll turn away most Russians seeking to enter the EU on visas for tourism, culture, sports and business by September 19. The measures fall short of a full ban for those entering the bloc’s visa-free Schengen area.

German anger as countries baulk at gas-sharing deals  

Hope is dimming in Germany that it will be able to clinch more gas solidarity agreements with European Union partners beyond the ones already in place with Denmark and Austria, a potential further hindrance to Berlin’s ability to mitigate the effects of the energy crisis. 

Blinken visits children’s hospital, meets terrier on Kyiv trip 

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited the National Specialised Children’s Hospital Ohmatdyt while in Kyiv, meeting patients including several who were seriously injured in Russian strikes.

Blinken also met Patron, the explosive-sniffing Jack Russell terrier who’s become a social media star for his work finding mines. Patron, whose name means “cartridge” in Ukrainian, is “world-famous”, Blinken said. 

“We have a long history of working on demining,” Blinken told hospital staff. “We’re honoured to be working with you on that.” 

Ukraine keeps policy rate at 25% 

The National Bank of Ukraine left the key policy rate unchanged at 25%, the highest since 2015, as expected. The rate has been at that level since June. 

“Under current conditions, such a level of the key policy rate is sufficient to maintain exchange-rate stability and keep inflation processes under control,” Deputy Central Bank Governor Serhiy Nikolaychuk said in Kyiv.  

Blinken travels to Kyiv in new show of support  

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken made an unannounced visit to Kyiv on Thursday for meetings with Ukrainian officials as the country’s military presses to regain territory that Russia seized in the first six months of its invasion. Blinken met with his Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba for 30 minutes. 

The trip to Ukraine was Blinken’s third since the start of the war on February 24 and his fifth since becoming the Biden administration’s top diplomat, according to the State Department. 




US defence chief announces $675m in fresh Ukraine funding  

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said the US had approved $675-million in fresh military aid to Ukraine as the war enters a “new phase” with Kyiv’s counteroffensive seeking to roll back Russia’s invasion.

The US also plans to provide an additional $2-billion in foreign military financing to back Ukraine’s efforts as well as 18 neighbouring nations including Nato allies, according to a State Department official.

Austin commented at a meeting of the Ukraine Contact Group at Ramstein Air Base in Germany on Thursday, where US and European officials pledged to stand by Ukraine. The US has committed a total of $6.3 billion to Ukraine since the group’s last meeting.

Norway to give Hellfire missiles, night-vision equipment 

Norway will donate to Ukraine night-vision equipment and about 160 Hellfire missiles, launching pads and guidance units, the defence ministry said. The weapons, which can be used against land and sea targets, were originally acquired for Norway’s coastal ranger commando. 

Norwegian instructors have trained Ukrainian operators in the use of Hellfire, which is nearing the end of its service life and was scheduled to be phased out.

Germany pledges to help companies hurt by Putin’s energy squeeze 

Germany will support firms hit by the energy crisis, widening a pandemic-era aid programme to help companies hit by surging costs.

Europe’s largest economy is at the centre of the continent’s energy crunch as Russian President Vladimir Putin slashes supplies in retaliation for sanctions related to the war in Ukraine. After the ruling coalition agreed on measures to support consumers, Germany will make funding available to strapped businesses.  

Hundreds of Portuguese Nato documents found on dark web 

Portugal’s Armed Forces General Staff, the country’s top military body, was the target of a cyberattack that resulted in the theft of classified Nato documents that were sent to the southern European nation, Diario de Noticias reported, citing unnamed sources. 

Hundreds of those documents, which were classified as secret and confidential, were found for sale on the dark web, according to the Portuguese daily. The Portuguese government was informed of this breach by the US embassy in Lisbon in August, the newspaper said.

Putin’s criticism of Ukraine grain deal triggers food price  worries 

Putin’s attack on a grain deal with Ukraine and the surge in wheat prices highlighted the fragility of the global crop trade, raising the spectre of higher food prices to come. 

The grain shipment corridor from Ukraine is not helping poorer countries, as the majority of supplies are going to Europe, Putin said on Wednesday. He added that it may be worth discussing restrictions on the routes with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, putting the future of the deal in jeopardy. 

Zelensky praises military for retaking several towns in Kharkiv region 

Ukraine’s army has recaptured a few towns in the northeastern Kharkiv region, according to Zelensky. “Now is not the time to name the settlements to which the Ukrainian flag returns,” he said in his regular nightly video address. “Each success of our military in one direction or another changes the general situation along the entire front line in favour of Ukraine.”

Zelensky also promised to spend more than a trillion hryvnias ($27-billion) for security and defence needs next year and to cut all non-critical government spending, including those of state-run companies. Ukraine’s government is to submit the draft of the 2023 budget to Parliament by September 15. DM


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