Sweden pledges $1.25 bln in military aid to Ukraine amid deadly Russian attacks


STOCKHOLM: Sweden on Wednesday pledged military aid of 13.3 billion kronor ($1.25 billion) to Ukraine, as Kiev struggles with multiple delays of vital Western military support in the third year of war with Russia.

The Scandinavian country, which formally joined NATO in March, will donate a range of material, including ASC 890 surveillance aircraft, Rb 99 medium-range air-to-air missiles and artillery ammunition, and all of its model 302 armoured infantry fighting vehicles.

“Sweden is supporting Ukraine with its 16th aid package, its largest to date worth 13.3 billion kronor,” Deputy Prime Minister Ebba Busch told reporters.

Defense Minister Pal Jonson, also participating in the press conference via video link, added that the ASC 890 surveillance aircraft would be particularly useful for Ukraine’s air defense, enabling it “to identify incoming cruise missiles and drones and identify targets both on the ground and at sea”.

Stockholm has not excluded sending its Gripen fighter jets to Ukraine, but on Tuesday said it has been asked by the air force coalition for Ukraine to hold off as they prioritise the introduction of U.S.-made F-16s into the Ukrainian air force.

Sweden has in recent days announced both a 650-million-kronor aid package to secure Ukraine’s energy supply, a sector that has been targeted by Russian strikes, as well as a framework civilian and military aid package of 75 billion kronor over three years, from 2024 to 2026, to support Kiev “as long as necessary”.

The pledges bring Sweden’s overall aid to Ukraine since Russia’s invasion in 2022 to more than 100 billion kronor, making Kiev the biggest recipient of Swedish aid.

Deadly Russian attacks and Western ‘risk-aversing’

As calls multiply to allow Ukraine to strike inside Russia using Western-supplied longer-range weapons, analysts said Tuesday that Kiev’s allies remained “risk-averse” and deterred by Moscow’s nuclear sabre rattling.

On Monday, NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg urged Western powers to reconsider the restrictions as they were hampering Kiev’s ability to defend itself.

But Washington and other allies are reluctant, fearing a possible escalation could prompt Putin to use nuclear weapons.

“I think this is unfair,” Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky said about western restrictions on use of their weapons.

On Tuesday, President Vladimir Putin warned of “serious consequences” if Western countries allowed Ukraine to use their weapons to strike Russia.

The stakes are huge. Ukraine is struggling to hold back a Russian ground offensive in the Kharkiv region, where Moscow recently made its largest territorial gains in 18 months.

With Russia’s war against Ukraine in its third year, Ukrainian soldiers are exhausted and outgunned.

Ukraine on Wednesday reported seven people had been killed in four regions of the war-battered country, as Russia presses gains on the front line where Kiev’s troops are struggling.

A missile attack Wednesday on the eastern Sumy region that borders Russia killed two and wounded three. regional authorities said on social media.

The governor of the frontline Donetsk region, which the Kremlin claims is part of Russia, said three people had been killed in separate attacks on Tuesday.

Governor Vadym Filashkin said two people had been killed in the town of Toretsk and another person was killed in an attack on the frontline town of Selidove on Tuesday, which is routinely struck by Russian forces.

In the southern Kherson region, which the Kremlin also claimed to have annexed in 2022 even though it is still fighting for control of the Black Sea territory, the governor said Russia had shelled housing and infrastructure facilities.

“One person died as a result of Russian aggression,” said Oleksandr Prokudin, Kherson’s governor.

Last weekend, Russian forces carried out one of the single deadliest attacks in weeks on the northeastern Kharkiv region which borders Russia, hitting a busy hardware store.

Prosecutors said Wednesday that the toll from the strike had risen to 19, after a 40-year-old employee of the store who sustained severe burns during the attack died in hospital.__Daily Hurriyet