- President Joe Biden authorized another $800 million security package and an additional $500 million dollars in direct economic assistance to Ukraine.
- The latest security package, which includes heavy artillery and tactical drones, comes as Western intelligence warns of an intensified Russian offensive in eastern and southern Ukraine following weeks of stalled ground advances on Kyiv.
WASHINGTON — The United States will send another $800 million security package and an additional $500 million in direct economic assistance to Ukraine as its military fights off a renewed Russian assault, President Joe Biden said Thursday.
"This is money the government can help use to stabilize their economy, to support communities that have been devastated by the Russian onslaught and pay the brave workers that continue to provide essential services to the people of Ukraine," Biden said from the Roosevelt Room of the White House.
Get DFW local news, weather forecasts and entertainment stories to your inbox. Sign up for NBC DFW newsletters.
"With this latest disbursement, I've almost exhausted the draw-down authority I have that Congress authorized for Ukraine and a bipartisan spending bill last month," Biden said, adding that he would send lawmakers a supplemental budget request next week.
Biden said he discussed the new assistance package in person with Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal at the White House. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy thanked Biden for the additional aid in a tweet.
"This help is needed today more than ever! It saves the lives of our defenders of democracy and freedom and brings us closer to restoring peace in Ukraine," Zelenskyy wrote.
At the Pentagon, a senior U.S. Defense official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity in order to share new details, said the new weapons package was tailored to meet an intensified fight in eastern and southern Ukraine. A second senior U.S. Defense official, who also spoke on the condition of anonymity in order to share new details, said the first flights of military aid will depart for the region in the next 24 to 48 hours.
"The first rounds of that equipment will be in the Ukrainian hands by the end of the weekend," the second official said.
For nearly eight weeks, Russian forces have faced a slew of battlefield logistics that stalled advances on Ukraine's capital Kyiv. Western intelligence indicated that Russian forces were leaving key positions near Kyiv and relocating to areas in the east of Ukraine.
The latest security package, the eighth such installment, includes 72 howitzers, 144,000 artillery rounds, 72 tactical vehicles to tow howitzers, and more than 121 Phoenix Ghost tactical drones.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters that the Phoenix Ghost drones were "rapidly developed by the Air Force, in response, specifically to Ukrainian requirements."
The drones are tactical unmanned aerial systems manufactured by Aevex Aerospace in Solana Beach, California. Once the drones are in the region, U.S. troops will have to train Ukrainian forces on how to operate them, Kirby added.
"It provides similar capabilities to the Switchblade series of unmanned systems, similar capabilities but not exact," Kirby said. "There are other differences in the scope of capability for the Phoenix Ghosts, but I'm just not going to be able to get into more detail about those capabilities right now."
Biden's remarks follow a Wednesday afternoon meeting with his military commanders and national security officials, who gave him assessments on global threats as well as the ongoing war in Ukraine.
Ahead of the meeting, Biden said that U.S. security assistance is flowing into the region daily and that allies are "stepping up and amplifying the impact of our response."
Last week, following a phone call with Zelenskyy, Biden authorized a separate military assistance package worth $800 million.
Since Moscow invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, the Biden administration has deployed more than 100,000 U.S. troops to NATO-member countries and authorized $3.4 billion in security assistance.
The U.S. has provided more than $4 billion to Ukraine since the beginning of Biden's presidency, according to the White House.
What's more, the NATO alliance has placed more than 140 warships as well as 130 aircraft on heightened alert. In addition, the 30-member-strong group has consistently warned Russian President Vladimir Putin that an attack on one NATO member state will be viewed as an attack on all, triggering the group's cornerstone Article 5.
Ukraine, which has sought NATO membership since 2002, is bordered by four NATO allies: Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania.