Lloyd Austin launches monthly Ukraine Contact Group meetings to help West plan aid to Kyiv

Afghanistan army collapse was a ‘surprise’ says Lloyd Austin

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The US Defence Secretary invited nearly 40 nations to a forum in Germany yesterday to discuss current and future efforts to support Ukraine while it undergoes an invasion by Vladimir Putin’s Russian troops. The meetings look set to be held both remotely and in person.

Mr Austin said: “The contact group will be a vehicle for nations of goodwill to intensify our efforts, coordinate our assistance, and focus on winning today’s fight and the struggles to come.”

He added: “The monthly meetings may be in-person, virtual or mixed.
“And they’ll extend the transparency, the integration and the dialogue that we saw today.”

Mr Austin also revealed more than 30 allied and partner nations have committed to handing over more than $5billion (almost £4billion) in security assistance to Ukraine.

Washington alone is said to have provided $3.7billion (almost £3billion) in assistance.

The UK Government announced earlier this month it would bolster defensive aid to Kyiv in a new £100million package.

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Britain had previously sent £350million in military aid and an additional £400million in economic and humanitarian support to the ex-Soviet state.

Austin went on to suggest Western nations would need to continue to offer support in order for Ukraine to see off Russia’s invasion.

He said: “Ukraine needs our help to win today. And they will still need our help when the war is over.

“As President Biden says, our security assistance has gone ‘directly to the frontlines of freedom … and to the fearless and skilled Ukrainian fighters who are standing in the breach’.

“My Ukrainian friends, we know the burden that all of you carry.

“And we know, and you should know, that all of us have your back. And that’s why we’re here today — to strengthen the arsenal of Ukrainian democracy.”

The UK’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) has also issued an intelligence update on the situation in Ukraine.

The update, which was published on Twitter on Wednesday morning, said: “Ukraine retains control over the majority of its airspace.

“Russia has failed to effectively destroy the Ukrainian Air Force or suppress Ukrainian air defences.

“Ukraine continues to hold Russian air assets at risk.

“Russian air activity is primarily focused on southern and eastern Ukraine, providing support to Russian ground forces.

“Russia has very limited air access to the north and west of Ukraine, limiting offensive actions to deep strikes with stand-off weapons.

“Russia continues to target Ukrainian military assets and logistics infrastructure across the country.

“The majority of Russian air strikes in Mariupol are likely being conducted using unguided free-falling bombs.

“These weapons reduce Russia’s ability to effectively discriminate when conducting strikes, increasing the risk of civilian casualties.”

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