WASHINGTON: The leaders of the United States, Britain and Canada pledged on Tuesday (Apr 19) to send more artillery weaponry to Ukraine in the face of an all-out Russian assault on that country's East.
US President Joe Biden, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau acted after they and other allied leaders took part in a secure video call as the Russian invasion reached a new phase.
Biden is expected to announce in coming days another military aid package for Ukraine about the same size as the US$800 million one announced last week, multiple sources familiar with the matter said on Tuesday.
If the aid package is as large as expected, it would bring total US military aid to Ukraine since Russia invaded in February to well over US$3 billion.
Asked by reporters during a visit to New Hampshire if the United States would be sending more artillery to Ukraine, Biden replied yes.
In London, Johnson told lawmakers: "This will become an artillery conflict, they need support with more artillery, that is what we will be giving them ... in addition to many other forms of support."
Trudeau said Canada would be sending heavy artillery and promised to provide more details.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Air Force One the leaders reaffirmed their commitment to providing Ukraine security and economic and humanitarian assistance.
"We will continue to provide them more ammunition, as we will provide them more military assistance," Psaki said. She said the United States was preparing another round of sanctions to impose on Moscow.
In their 90-minute video call, Biden and the allies discussed their diplomatic engagements and coordinated efforts to further impose "severe economic costs to hold Russia accountable", Psaki said.
They are to coordinate through the G7, the European Union and NATO, she said.
Russia seized its first town in eastern Ukraine as part of a fresh assault that Ukraine has described as the Battle of the Donbas aimed at taking two provinces.
The United States sees Russia carrying out a "prelude" to larger offensive operations in the eastern part of its neighbouring country, a senior US official said on Tuesday.
Biden's video call from the White House Situation Room began at 9.57am and ended at 11.21am, with Biden speaking from the White House Situation Room.
Others on the call included European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg as well as the leaders of Italy, Japan and Poland.
A French presidential adviser said the allies had discussed how to provide security guarantees to Ukraine after the war if it is not part of NATO and its automatic defense mechanism known as Article 5.
"Our country is ready to provide security guarantees," the French official said. "It would be military supplies so that it can deal with a new attack or, possibly, guarantees that would see us get involved if Ukraine is attacked in a way where we could assess how to assist it."
These guarantees would look more like the defence clause the European Union currently has among its members, the French official said, rather than a defence mechanism similar to NATO's Article 5, which triggers automatic military support if a member is attacked.
Allies also discussed the need to persuade non-EU, non-G7 countries to treat the war in Ukraine as an issue that concerns world peace and not just Europe or the West, the French official said.
Russia sent tens of thousands of troops into Ukraine on Feb 24 in what it called a special operation to degrade its southern neighbour’s military capabilities and root out people it called dangerous nationalists. Ukrainian forces have mounted stiff resistance and the West has imposed sweeping sanctions on Russia in an effort to force it to withdraw its forces.