Western nations pledge more advanced arms to Ukraine as Russia makes gains

Ukrainian servicemen with unexploded Russian ordnance
Ukrainian servicemen prepare to detonate unexploded Russian ordnance on the outskirts of the capital, Kyiv, on Wednesday.
(Natacha Pisarenko / Associated Press)

Western nations are promising more and more advanced arms to bolster Ukraine’s defense as its troops battled a grinding Russian offensive that was closing in on capturing a key city in the east.

Germany said Wednesday that it would supply Ukraine with modern antiaircraft missiles and radar systems, and the U.S. is to unveil a new weapons package for Kyiv later in the day that is expected to include high-tech, medium-range rocket systems.

The U.S. is trying to strike a balance by helping Ukraine battle ferocious Russian artillery barrages while not providing weapons that could allow Ukrainian forces to hit targets deep inside Russia and trigger an escalation in the war.


The Kremlin’s spokesman told reporters Wednesday that the U.S. was “pouring fuel on the fire.”

Damaged buildings and destroyed cars in eastern Ukraine
Heavily damaged buildings and destroyed cars in Bakhmut, eastern Ukraine, following Russian attacks.
(Francisco Seco / Associated Press)

Western arms have been critical to Ukraine’s success in stymieing Russia’s much larger and better-equipped military — thwarting its initial efforts to take the capital and forcing Moscow to shift its focus to completing its capture of the eastern industrial Donbas region.

But as Russia bombards towns in its inching advance in the east, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has repeatedly pleaded for more and better weapons and accused the West of moving too slowly. Military analysts say Russia is hoping to overrun the Donbas before any weapons that might turn the tide arrive.

Andriy Yermak, the head of the Ukrainian president’s office, hailed the new Western weapons.

“I’m sure that if we receive all the necessary weapons and strengthen the efficient sanctions regime, we will win,” he said.


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The new arms could help Ukraine set up and hold new lines of defense in the east by hitting back at Russian artillery pieces that have been battering towns and cities and by limiting Russian airstrikes, said French retired Gen. Dominique Trinquand, a former head of France’s military mission at the United Nations.

“The NATO countries — the European nations and the Americans — have progressively escalated the means that they are putting at Ukraine’s disposal, and this escalation, in my opinion, has had the aim of testing Russian limits,” he said. “Each time, they measure the Russian reaction, and since there is no reaction, they keep supplying increasingly effective and sophisticated weaponry.”

Military analysts say Russia is hoping to overrun the Donbas before any weapons that might turn the tide arrive.

Germany has come under particular criticism, both at home and from allies abroad, that it isn’t doing enough.

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German Chancellor Olaf Scholz told lawmakers that the IRIS-T SLM missiles that it will send are the most modern air-defense system that Germany has. They can operate at longer ranges than the Cold War-era antiaircraft vehicles it has previously provided.

“With this, we will enable Ukraine to defend an entire city from Russian air attacks,” he said. He said Germany would also supply Ukraine with radar systems to help locate enemy artillery.


In addition to the rocket systems it had promised, the U.S. package will include helicopters, Javelin antitank weapon systems, tactical vehicles, spare parts and more, two senior administration officials said Tuesday. The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity to preview the package before it is formally unveiled.

One official noted that the advanced rocket systems would give Ukrainian forces greater precision in targeting Russian assets inside Ukraine. The rockets, which have a range of about 50 miles and are highly mobile, will allow Ukrainian troops to disrupt Russian supply lines, said another Western official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

People carrying large water bottles
Residents carry bottled water in the war-torn Ukrainian city of Slovyansk on Tuesday.
(Francisco Seco / Associated Press)

The U.S. has received assurances that Ukraine will not fire rockets into Russian territory, according to the senior administration officials.

Russia views “negatively” the U.S. plans to supply more weapons, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters Wednesday, saying that Moscow did not trust Kyiv’s assurances that the rocket systems would not be used to attack Russia.

“We believe that the U.S. is deliberately and diligently pouring fuel on the fire,” Peskov said.


Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Ukraine’s push for more weapons is a “direct provocation intended to draw the West into the fighting.” He warned that the multiple-rocket launchers would raise the risk of an expanded conflict.

“Sane Western politicians understand those risks well,” he said.

The announcements come as a regional governor in the Donbas said Russian forces now control 70% of Severodonetsk, a city that is key to Russia’s efforts to seize the parts of the region not already controlled by Moscow-backed separatists.

Gov. Serhiy Haidai of the Luhansk region said street fighting was ongoing in the city, where about 13,000 people remain even though 90% of residential buildings have been damaged. Tens of thousands have fled the city, once home to about 100,000 people.

He noted that the only other city in the Luhansk region that Russians have not yet captured, Lysychansk, is still “fully” under Ukrainian control.

“If the Russians manage to take full control over Severodonetsk within two to three days, they will start installing artillery and mortars and will shell Lysychansk more intensively,” Haidai said.

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Separately, in a Telegram post Wednesday, Haidai noted that some Ukrainian troops had pulled back from Severodonetsk.

“The evacuation [of civilians] has been halted. There is no possibility to bring in humanitarian aid,” Haidai wrote.


Zelensky said the country is losing between 60 and 100 soldiers a day in the fighting and that another 500 are wounded.

He told the U.S. TV channel Newsmax on Tuesday night that “the most difficult situation is in the east of Ukraine and southern Donetsk and Luhansk” — the two provinces that make up the Donbas region.

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In southern Ukraine, a regional governor said Russian troops were retreating and blowing up bridges to obstruct a possible Ukrainian advance. Vitaliy Kim, governor of the Mykolaiv region, said in messages on Telegram on Wednesday that Russia was on the defensive.

“They are afraid of a counterattack by the Ukrainian army,” Kim wrote. He didn’t specify where the retreat was happening. The parts of the Mykolaiv region which have been held by Russian forces in recent days are close to the large Russia-held city of Kherson.

Zelensky said in his nightly address there had been “some success in the Kherson direction” for Ukraine.