Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin on Wednesday pledged indefinite support to Kyiv through “all seasons” as he kicked off the sixth meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group in Belgium.
“Ukrainian forces have changed the dynamics of this war,” he told world leaders united under the coalition. “These victories belong to the Ukrainian soldiers. But the Contact Groups security assistance, training and sustainment efforts have been vital.
“Our resolve to support Ukraine’s defenders extends through all seasons,” he added.
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Austin said the group, which includes participants from more than 50 nations, NATO and the European Union, would continue to support Ukraine in the short and long term, noting its support for Ukraine “doesn’t hinge on the outcome of any particular battle.”
The defense secretary championed Ukraine’s recent advances along the front lines and claimed Russian President Vladimir Putin’s increased attacks on non-military targets shows he is “lashing out.”
Though Russian forces have targeted civilians since the beginning of the war and thousands of investigations relating to human rights abuses and war crimes have been opened, Putin has made a point in hitting Ukraine’s electric infrastructure.
Earlier this week Russia levied roughly 85 missiles and drone strikes at civilian targets across Ukraine, hitting downtown Kyiv and causing power outages nationwide.
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“Russia’s latest assaults have only deepened the determination of the Ukrainian people in further uniting countries of goodwill from every region,” Austin said.
The defense secretary did not detail additional steps the U.S. and its allied nations will take to further support Ukraine, though Kyiv has renewed its calls for air defense and on Tuesday Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenksyy called on the G7 to help finance an “air shield.”
Austin said that as the dynamics of the war alter, the Contact Group’s mission will also change.
President Biden last week approved the 22nd draw-down package and shipped Kyiv more HIMARS, Howitzers, rounds of ammunition and more.
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“This Contact Group in a galvanized world will support Ukraine self-defense for the long haul,” Austin said. “We will stand together to defend the rules based international order that strengthens our common security.
“As President Biden has said, we will stand by Ukraine’s defenders for as long as it takes,” he added.