US Announces $275Mln in New Military Aid for Ukraine

Firefighters put out a fire after two guided bombs hit a large construction supplies store in Kharkiv, Ukraine, Saturday, May 25, 2024. Writing reads “Garden Center”. (AP Photo/Andrii Marienko)
Firefighters put out a fire after two guided bombs hit a large construction supplies store in Kharkiv, Ukraine, Saturday, May 25, 2024. Writing reads “Garden Center”. (AP Photo/Andrii Marienko)
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US Announces $275Mln in New Military Aid for Ukraine

Firefighters put out a fire after two guided bombs hit a large construction supplies store in Kharkiv, Ukraine, Saturday, May 25, 2024. Writing reads “Garden Center”. (AP Photo/Andrii Marienko)
Firefighters put out a fire after two guided bombs hit a large construction supplies store in Kharkiv, Ukraine, Saturday, May 25, 2024. Writing reads “Garden Center”. (AP Photo/Andrii Marienko)

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said his country will provide a new $275 million military aid package for Ukraine to help the beleaguered country repel Russia’s assault on Kharkiv.

His announcement came while US media reports highlighted the Ukrainian ongoing shortages of artillery ammunition and air defense interceptors against Russia’s offensive since May 10.

According to Blinken, the new package includes ammunition for HIMARS, 155 mm and 105 mm artillery rounds, missiles, anti-armor systems and precision aerial munitions.

“Assistance from previous packages has already made it to the front lines, and we will move this new assistance as quickly as possible so the Ukrainian military can use it to defend their territory and protect the Ukrainian people,” the State Department said.

Although the new package is an urgent response to Kyiv's needs, several reports have suggested that Russia's recent advances on the battlefronts, both in Kharkiv and the Donetsk region, are due to its success in using new jamming techniques to cut off Ukraine's access to the Starlink satellite Internet network and the ability of its forces to use advanced Western weapons.

Many US-made satellite-guided munitions in Ukraine have failed to withstand Russian jamming technology, prompting Kyiv to stop using certain types of Western-provided armaments after effectiveness rates plummeted, according to senior Ukrainian military officials and confidential internal Ukrainian assessments obtained by The Washington Post.

It said this development has far-reaching implications for Ukraine and its Western allies, potentially providing a blueprint for adversaries such as China and Iran. It is a key factor in Moscow’s forces regaining the initiative and advancing on the battlefield.

The documents obtained by the Post also reveal that the success rate for the US-designed Excalibur shells, for example, fell sharply over a period of months — to less than 10 percent hitting their targets — before Ukraine’s military abandoned them last year.

Russia’s jamming tactics have compromised Ukraine’s ability to defend its territory, as it has failed to use high-tech Western weapons, such as the Excalibur GPS-guided artillery shells and the of High Mobility Artillery Rockets (HIMARS), forcing Ukrainian officials to request improvements from the Pentagon and arms manufacturers urgently, the Post said.

Russia “has continued to expand their use of electronic warfare,” a senior US official, who was not named, told the Post. “And we continue to evolve and make sure that Ukraine has the capabilities they need to be effective.”

In addition to the jamming difficulties, the Ukrainian army has been barred to use long-range missiles to Russian territories near the border.

The United States and other Western allies have permitted only the firing of Western weapons into Russian-occupied territory in Ukraine, not into Russia itself, for fear of escalating the war.

According to The Wall Street Journal, Ukraine hit a Russian military complex in Crimea with US-provided long-range missiles Thursday night.

The missile strike hit a communications center of Russian air-defense forces in the city of Alushta, according to a Ukrainian defense official.

In return, the Russian air defenses have downed three ATACMS missiles over the Crimean Peninsula, the Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement published by TASS.

On Friday night, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said his forces have secured “combat control” of areas where Russian troops entered the northeastern Kharkiv region earlier this month.

“Our soldiers have now managed to take combat control of the border area where the Russian occupiers entered,” Zelenskyy said in his nightly video address on Friday evening.

Also, Ihor Prokhorenko, a representative of the Main Operational Directorate of Ukraine's General Staff, said at a briefing in Kyiv on Friday that Ukrainian forces halted Russian troops in the Kharkiv sector and are conducting counterattacks.

Prokhorenko described the situation on the battlefield as “difficult,” saying Ukrainian soldiers continue to hold the line in the country's east and south.



Iran Presidential Hopefuls Debate Economy Ahead of Election

Presidential candidate Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf speaks during a campaign event in Tehran, Iran June 18, 2024. Majid Asgaripour/WANA (West Asia News Agency) via Reuters
Presidential candidate Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf speaks during a campaign event in Tehran, Iran June 18, 2024. Majid Asgaripour/WANA (West Asia News Agency) via Reuters
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Iran Presidential Hopefuls Debate Economy Ahead of Election

Presidential candidate Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf speaks during a campaign event in Tehran, Iran June 18, 2024. Majid Asgaripour/WANA (West Asia News Agency) via Reuters
Presidential candidate Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf speaks during a campaign event in Tehran, Iran June 18, 2024. Majid Asgaripour/WANA (West Asia News Agency) via Reuters

The six candidates vying to succeed ultraconservative president Ebrahim Raisi, who died in a helicopter crash, focused on revitalizing Iran's sanctions-hit economy in their first debate ahead of next week's election.

The contenders -- five conservatives and a sole reformer -- faced off in a four-hour live debate, vowing to address the financial challenges affecting the country's 85 million people.

Originally slated for 2025, the election was moved forward after Raisi's death on May 19 in a helicopter crash in northern Iran.

Long before the June 28 election, Iran had been grappling with mounting economic pressures, including international sanctions and soaring inflation.

"We will strengthen the economy so that the government can pay salaries according to inflation and maintain their purchasing power," conservative presidential hopeful Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf said.

Ghalibaf, Iran's parliament speaker, also pledged to work towards removing crippling US sanctions reimposed after then US president Donald Trump withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal.

Iran's economy grew by 5.7 percent in the year to March 2024, with authorities targeting a further eight percent growth this year, driven by hydrocarbon exports.

The sole reformist candidate, Massoud Pezeshkian, said he would seek to build regional and global relations to achieve this growth.

He also called for easing internet restrictions in the country where Facebook, Instagram, Telegram and X are among the social media platforms banned.

Reformists, whose political influence has waned in the years since the 1979 revolution, have fallen in behind Pezeshkian after other moderate hopefuls were barred from standing.

Ultraconservative former nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili, however, said Iran did not need to repair its relations with the West.

He took aim at Trump, saying his policy of "maximum pressure" against Iran had "failed miserably".

- 'Maximum pressure' -

In the absence of opinion polls, Ghalibaf, Jalili and Pezeshkian are seen as the frontrunners for Iran's second highest-ranking job.

Ultimate authority in the state is wielded by the supreme leader rather the president with 85-year-old Ali Khamenei holding the post for 35 years.

Incumbent Vice President Amirhossein Ghazizadeh-Hashemi said during the debate he would seek to lower inflation following a "political leadership style similar to that of Martyr Raisi."

Raisi easily won Iran's 2021 election in which no reformist or moderate figures were allowed to run. Backed by Khamenei he had been tipped to possibly replace the supreme leader.

Iran’s relations with the West continued to suffer, particularly following the outbreak of the October 7 Gaza war.

Tehran's support for the Palestinian armed group Hamas, coupled with ongoing diplomatic tensions over Iran's nuclear program have hastened the decline.

Mostafa Pourmohammadi, the only cleric in the running, blamed international sanctions for "blocking the economy" and "making financial transactions impossible".

Tehran's conservative mayor, Alireza Zakani, said the US sanctions were "cruel" but were not the main problem behind Iran's economic hardship.

"We should emphasize the economic independence of the country, de-dollarize the economy and rely on our own national currency," he said.