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US arms Ukraine with thousands of seized Iranian guns, rifles and munitions

In News, World
April 10, 2024

The United States has transferred to Ukraine thousands of infantry weapons and more than 500,000 rounds of ammunition that were seized more than a year ago as they were being shipped by Iran to Houthi forces in Yemen.

The US military said the transfer was made on April 4, the latest military assistance that US President Joe Biden’s administration has provided to Kyiv following Russia’s full-scale invasion.

Democrat Biden has been blocked from providing further US weaponry to Kyiv by Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson’s refusal to call a vote on $60bn in new security assistance. With Ukrainian forces running low on weapons and munitions, especially heavy artillery rounds, Washington and its allies have been searching for new ways to arm Kyiv.

Posting on social media platform X, the US Central Command (CENTCOM) said the hardware included more than 5,000 AK-47 assault rifles, machine guns, sniper rifles, as well as more than 500,000 rounds of 7.62 ammunition.

The munitions were taken from four “stateless” vessels intercepted by US naval ships and those of partner forces – which were not identified – between May 22, 2021 and February 15, 2023, CENTCOM added.

“This constitutes enough material to equip one Ukrainian brigade with small arms rifles,” the statement added. An infantry brigade is typically made up of between 3,500 and 4,000 troops.

Iran’s permanent mission to the United Nations said: “We cannot comment on weapons and armaments that have never belonged to us.”

The weapons were being sent by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps to the Houthis, CENTCOM said.

‘The Russians could go to the big cities’

Administration officials have warned the outlook for Ukraine could be grim if further US military assistance fails to materialise.

On Tuesday, British Foreign Secretary David Cameron urged Congress to pass the Ukraine aid package after a meeting in Florida with Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee for president.

“Success for Ukraine and failure for Putin are vital for American and European security,” Cameron said in a statement, saying it was important to demonstrate to Russian President Vladimir Putin that “aggression doesn’t pay”.

“The alternative would only encourage Putin in further attempts to redraw European borders by force, and would be heard clearly in Beijing, Tehran and North Korea,” added Cameron, who was British prime minister from 2010 to 2016.

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has continued to appeal for more military support.

He warned in an interview published on March 29, that if Ukraine did not get promised US military aid blocked by disputes in Congress, its forces would have to retreat “in small steps”.

“If there is no US support, it means that we have no air defence, no Patriot missiles, no jammers for electronic warfare, no 155-millimetre artillery rounds,” Zelenskyy told the Washington Post.

“It means we will go back, retreat, step by step, in small steps,” he said. “We are trying to find some way not to retreat.”

Shortages of munitions, he said, meant “you have to do with less. How? Of course, to go back. Make the front line shorter. If it breaks, the Russians could go to the big cities.”

Russian forces captured the eastern town of Avdiivka in February and have made small gains since, but the front line, which stretches more than 1,000 kilometres (621 miles), has changed little in months.

More than $184bn has already been committed to Ukraine by European nations, including more than $15bn from the UK.

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