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Live: US to send Ukraine air defence aid worth $275 million

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The United States is preparing to send Ukraine a 275-million-dollar (€260 million) military aid package offering new capabilities to defeat drones and strengthen air defences, Reuters reported on Friday, a day after Russia’s President Vladimir Putin said Moscow would continue to strike Ukraine’s energy grid in a campaign that has left swaths of the country without clean water and electricity. Follow our live blog for the latest on the war. All times are Paris time (GMT+1). 

6:50am: US to send Ukraine anti-drone, air defence aid worth $275 million

The United States is preparing to send Ukraine a 275-million-dollar (€260 million) military aid package offering new capabilities to defeat drones and strengthen air defences, according to a document seen by Reuters and people familiar with the package.

The Pentagon is also expected to include rockets for High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) launchers made by Lockheed Martin Corp LMT.N, 155mm ammunition, Humvee military vehicles and generators, according to the people and the document.

A National Security Council spokesperson declined to comment on the aid package. The contents and size of aid packages can shift until they are signed by the president.

The $275 million will be covered by Presidential Drawdown Authority (PDA) which allows the United States to transfer defence articles and services from stocks quickly without congressional approval in response to an emergency.

4:35am: Brittney Griner heads home after prisoner swap

American basketball star Brittney Griner was headed back to the United States on Thursday after being released from a Russian prison in exchange for an arms dealer known as the “Merchant of Death”.

Griner, 32, who was arrested in Russia in February on drug charges, and Viktor Bout, 55, who was serving a 25-year sentence in a US prison, were exchanged at an airport in Abu Dhabi.

In footage released by Russian state media, Griner, shorn of her distinctive dreadlocks, and a relaxed and animated Bout could be seen crossing paths on the airport tarmac and heading towards the planes that would take them home.

President Joe Biden announced Griner’s release in an address to the nation at the White House. “She is safe. She is on a plane. She is on her way home,” he said.

The president said he had spoken to her and she was in “good spirits” after suffering “needless trauma”.


 

10:35pm: Russia ‘deploying rocket launchers near Ukraine nuclear reactor’

Russian forces have installed multiple rocket launchers at Ukraine’s shut-down Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, according to Ukrainian officials.

Ukraine’s nuclear company Energoatom said in a statement that Russian forces occupying the plant have placed several Grad multiple rocket launchers near one of its six nuclear reactors, which are all shut down. It said the offensive systems are located at new “protective structures” the Russians secretly built, “violating all conditions for nuclear and radiation safety”.

The claim could not be independently verified.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP and Reuters)

© France Médias Monde graphic studio


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