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Ally nations have agreed to send new weapons to Ukraine, U.S. defense chief says

A woman eats food given to her by volunteers at a food delivery station run by a Hare Krishna group in Kharkiv, Ukraine, on May 20, 2022. Photo by Ken Cedeno/UPI | License Photo

May 24 (UPI) -- Some 20 nations have agreed to provide Ukraine with new weapons, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said as Kyiv has called on allies for arms in its war against Russia.

The secretary made the announcement Monday during a press conference that followed the second meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group, which was formed by ally nations in April to help Kyiv.

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"Many countries are donating critically needed artillery ammunition and coastal defense systems and tanks and other armored vehicles," he said. "Others came forward with new commitments for training Ukraine's forces and sustaining its military systems."

Austin said the packages include an anti-ship harpoon launcher and missiles from Denmark and attack helicopters, tanks and rocket systems from the Czech Republic. Greece, Norway, Italy and Poland have also committed to donating artillery systems and ammunition, he said.

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"The momentum of donations and deliveries has been outstanding, and after today's discussions I'm pleased to report that we're intensifying our efforts, and moving forward, we'll continue to deepen our coordination and cooperation so that Ukraine can sustain and strengthen its battlefield operations," he said.

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The meeting consisted of 47 nations, Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said during the press conference.

The announcement came as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in his nightly address on Monday that Kyiv's "absolute priority" is weapons and ammunition.

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"Every time we tell our partners that we need modern anti-missile weapons, modern combat aircraft, we are not just making a formal request. We say that our request is the real lives of many people who would not have died if we had received all the weapons we are asking for," he said.

Zelensky said that all ally nations agree that Ukraine's war against Russia is to protect the common values shared by all Democratic nations and so "we have the right to count on full and urgent assistance, especially weapons."

Austin said Ukraine's military needs consist of long-range weapons, tanks and armored personnel carriers, stating the fighting is being shaped by artillery.

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According to Ukrainian officials, Russia has launched nearly 1,500 missile strikes consisting of some 2,275 missiles during the war, which began Feb. 24.

Monday's address came after Zelensky spoke remotely to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, where he called for maximum economic punishment against the government of Russian President Vladimir Putin. U.S. President Joe Biden signed legislation last weekend to provide $40 billion in additional aid and military equipment to Ukraine. A day earlier, he authorized an additional $100 million in weapons for the war-torn country.

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Since the war began, the Pentagon has committed $3.9 billion to Ukraine.

The Ukraine Defense Contact Group will hold its third meeting on June 15, U.S. officials said.

According to U.N. data, more than 3,800 Ukrainian civilians have been killed and 6.5 million have fled the country since the war began.

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