Ukraine’s defense minister to meet US defense secretary in Washington

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Ukraine’s Defense Minister Rustem Umerov will hold talks with US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin in Washington on Tuesday on firming up military cooperation between the two countries, the Pentagon said on Monday.

“Secretary Austin and Minister Umerov will discuss bilateral defense cooperation, regional security issues and ways to strengthen the defense partnership between the United States and Ukraine,” Deputy Press Secretary Sabrina Singh said at a press briefing, according to a transcript on the US Department of Defense website.

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The talks come after Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy renewed his plea to Kyiv’s allies over the weekend for more weapons after a Russian air strike in Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia region killed seven people.

The US is the largest provider of military assistance to Ukraine in the war that Russia launched against its smaller neighbour with a full-scale invasion in February 2022.

President Joe Biden’s administration has provided Ukraine with more than $50 billion in military aid since 2022.

Last week, the administration said it would provide Ukraine with $150 million worth of weapons and ammunition, including HAWK air defence interceptors and 155 mm artillery munitions

“The sooner the world helps us deal with the Russian combat aircraft launching these bombs, the sooner we can strike – justifiably strike – at Russian military infrastructure, military airfields, the closer we will be to peace,” Zelenskiy said in his nightly video address over the weekend.

But after two years of Kyiv’s asking allies for F-16 fighter jets to help it fight Russian forces, the planes are yet to arrive.

Singh declined to answer at the briefing when Ukraine would start receiving the jets, but said that the training of Ukrainian pilots on how to operate the planes is “ongoing.”

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