The US is set to announce another $500 million (€457.74 million) in military aid to Ukraine, including more than 50 heavily armored vehicles and an infusion of missiles for air defense systems.
The aid is aimed at bolstering Ukraine’s counteroffensive, which has been moving slowly in its early stages — although it’s unclear at this point if Ukrainian forces will be able to take advantage of the disarray in the Russian ranks, in the aftermath of the short-lived rebellion by Yevgeny Prigozhin and the Wagner mercenary group last weekend.
This would be the 41st time since the Russian invasion into Ukraine in February 2022 that the US has provided military weapons and equipment through presidential drawdown authority. The program allows the Pentagon to quickly take items from its own stocks and deliver them to Ukraine.
Because the aid packages are generally planned in advance and recently included many of the same critical weapons for the battlefront, the contents weren’t likely chosen based on the weekend rebellion.
But, the missiles and heavy vehicles can be used as Ukraine tries to capitalize on what has been a growing feud between the Wagner Group leader and Russia’s military brass, with simmering questions about how many of Prigozhin’s forces may leave the fight.
The mercenaries left Ukraine to seize a military headquarters in a southern Russian city and moved hundreds of miles toward Moscow before turning around after less than 24 hours on Saturday.
According to the officials, the US will send 30 Bradley Fighting Vehicles and 25 of the armored Stryker vehicles to Ukraine, along with missiles for the High-Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) and the Patriot air defense systems. The package will include Javelin and high-speed anti-radiation (HARM) missiles, demolition munitions, obstacle-clearing equipment and a wide range of artillery rounds and other ammunition.
An official announcement from the White House is expected on Tuesday.
President Zelenksyy on the front line meeting troops
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has been visiting troops on the front lines in Donetsk region in the east of the country.
The Monday visit comes as Ukrainian troops are carrying out an ongoing offenseive in this area, and in the south.
Zelenskyy “visited units of the armed forces of the operational and strategic group of Khortytsia”, alongside the commander of the Ukrainian ground forces, Oleksandre Syrsky, and decorated soldiers, according to the presidency.
“I want to thank you, reward you all and shake hands with great gratitude, you, your families, your parents,” the Ukrainian president said, addressing the military.
“Ukraine is proud of each of you,” he said.
During his trip, Volodymyr Zelensky stopped at a gas station and took several selfies with soldiers present at the scene, according to images shared on his Telegram channel.
The Ukrainian president regularly comes into contact with his army, near or on the front, unlike his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, who only makes rare public appearances.
‘Dozens’ of Russian spies active in Switzerland
Switzerland’s main intelligence agency says Russia continues to have dozens of spies disguised as diplomats at its embassy in Bern and its mission to the United Nations in Geneva, making the Alpine nation a hotspot for Russian espionage activity in Europe.
The NDB spy agency said in its annual report, published Monday, that while Russia’s intelligence activities in Europe and North America have been weakened by the expulsion of Russian agents posing as diplomats following the Skripal incident in 2018 and last year’s invasion of Ukraine, their number has remained stable in Switzerland.
“Of the roughly 220 people that are accredited as diplomatical or technical-administrative personnel at the diplomatic and consular representations in Geneva and Bern, at least a third are likely still active for Russian intelligence agencies,” it said in the report.
“Europe-wide, Switzerland is one of the states in which the most Russian intelligence personnel are deployed under diplomatic cover, including due to its role as a host country for international organisations,” the NDB said.
While China is also believed to have dozens of spies at its diplomatic missions in Switzerland, their number is significantly less than Russia’s, the agency said.
It said China is more likely to have spies masquerading as scientists, journalists and businesspeople.