The United States has approved an additional $350 million in weapons, armor, and other equipment for Ukraine as it fights Russia’s invading forces, U.S. officials said Saturday.
“Javelins will be in this next tranche as they had been in so many tranches in the past,” a senior defense official told Pentagon reporters on Saturday.
The shoulder-fired, Raytheon-produced missile can be carried by one soldier and used to disable tanks and other targets. They are part of a package that includes weapons and armor to defend against the “armored, airborne, and other threats it is now facing,” the State Department announced Saturday.
In the days leading up to the invasion the United States flew planeloads of weapons and supplies into Ukraine, but stopped flying all manned and unmanned aircraft over the country once hostilities began, the senior defense official said. But the United States has other ways such as ground routes to supply Ukrainian forces, the official said.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s announcement of “immediate military assistance” came after Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy refused an offer to be evacuated from Ukraine, saying he needed ammunition, not a ride, the Associated Press reported, citing an unnamed senior U.S. official.
Overnight into Saturday, Russian forces continued their attack on Kyiv and other major Ukrainian cities, but so far had not been able to take any of them. U.S. officials continue to say that Russians are facing more resistance than they had anticipated, but have declined to provide evidence to support that assessment.
“We have lots of different ways to sort of try to gauge what the Russians are doing and what they think about what they’re doing. I’m not going to get into that here,” the official said. “But we know that they have not made the progress that they have wanted to make, particularly in the north. They have been frustrated by what they have seen as a very determined resistance and it has slowed them down.”
But the Russian advance toward Kyiv continues. Putin’s army is now within 20 miles of the capital, according to the senior defense official. “We’ve actually seen some reconnaissance elements in and near the city, and I think that’s as far as I’ll go,” said the senior defense official.
U.S. officials have declined to provide battlefield details of Russian or Ukrainian force movements, downed aircraft, or casualty counts, beyond broad strokes and general descriptions.
More than half of the 150,000 troops Russia had arrayed along Ukraine’s border are now inside the country, the official said.
Russia has not achieved air superiority, the official said, declining to provide specifics.
As of Saturday, Russia had launched a total of more than 250 mostly short-range ballistic missiles into Ukraine, the official said.
On social media, Ukraine’s Interior Ministry continued to press its citizenry to resist the invasion, telling them to take down road signs and sabotage Russian convoy fuel supplies.
The State Road Agency of Ukraine “calls on all road organizations, territorial communities, local self-government bodies to immediately begin dismantling road signs nearby,” the agency posted on the armed forces’ Telegram feed and on Interfax. “The enemy has a miserable connection, they do not navigate the terrain. Let’s help them go straight to hell.”
John Troxell, who was the senior enlisted advisor to Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford, said he’s stayed in touch with senior enlisted leaders in Ukraine he built relationships with, one of whom has also retired but has gathered weapons to fight.
“Two of my good friends are hunkered down in Kyiv and armed to the teeth,” Troxell told Defense One. “I don’t want these gentlemen to be forgotten or the millions of Ukrainians standing up to the Russians to be forgotten.”
The additional resistance has caused Russia to advance more support capabilities than the U.S. believes they had intended to, the senior defense official said. Several social media and news reports purport to show Russian convoys running out of fuel or getting lost as they push into Ukraine.
“What we assess now, is that he [Putin] has had to commit a bit more logistics and sustainment capability like in the fuels specifically than what we believe they had originally planned to do this early in the operation,” the defense official said.
The information war has already become a key front in the war in Ukraine, and could intensify. The influential hacker group Anonymous warned Russia to expect to be targeted if hostilities do not cease. The group also claimed responsibility for leaking Ministry of Defense data on Saturday.
“The Anonymous collective is officially in cyber war against the Russian government,” the group tweeted Feb. 24.
“Anonymous has ongoing operations to keep .ru government websites offline, and to push information to the Russian people so they can be free of Putin’s state censorship machine,” the group said. “We also have ongoing operations to keep the Ukrainian people online as best we can.”
Both Ukraine and Russia have claimed to inflict casualties upon the other side. Ukraine said on Saturday it shot down Russian transport aircraft; Ukraine’s Air Force Command posted on Facebook it had destroyed a Russian Su-30 fighter jet, sending it into “the aquarium” of the Black Sea and adding “Welcome to Hell!” Neither claim could be independently verified.