By LOLITA C. BALDOR
WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. is expected to announce a new package of military aid for Ukraine Friday, including —for the first time — eight armored vehicles that can launch bridges and allow troops to cross rivers or other gaps, U.S. officials said Thursday.
The officials said the total cost of the package will be about $400 million and will also include large amounts of ammunition, such as rockets for the High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems. It comes just a week after the one-year anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and as Ukrainian forces are preparing for a spring offensive.
Officials spoke on condition of anonymity because the aid package has not yet been publicly announced.
The so-called Armored Vehicle Launched Bridge is a portable, 60-foot folding metal bridge that is carried on top of a tank body. Providing that system now could help Ukrainian troops as they launch the expected offensive, and make it easier for troops to cross rivers to get to Russian forces.
Including this latest package, the U.S. has now provided more than $32 billion in military aid to Ukraine. The vehicle bridges and ammunition in the package will be taken from Pentagon stocks through the presidential drawdown authority, so they will be able to be delivered quickly to the warfront.
The aid will also include an undisclosed amount of rounds for howitzers, other ammunition, demolition munitions and other equipment to clear obstacles, spare parts and equipment for vehicle maintenance and repair.
The announcement comes on the heels of a brief meeting Thursday between U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov at a meeting of top diplomats from the Group of 20 nations in New Delhi. It was the highest-level in-person talk between the two countries since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. But there was no indication of any movement toward easing the intense tensions between the two nations.
Blinken said he told Lavrov the U.S. would continue to support Ukraine for as long as it takes.
Lavrov, who did not mention speaking with Blinken when he held a news conference after the meeting, told reporters Moscow would continue to press its action in Ukraine.
The war had largely slowed to a grinding stalemate during the winter months, but both sides are expected to be preparing to launch offensives in the spring.