In an about-face move the Biden administration on Wednesday decided against providing Ukraine with Mi-17 helicopters despite informing Congress of its intention to do so a day prior, a senior U.S. defense official told Fox News.
The shipment of helicopters was considered Tuesday as part of a new $750 million aid package to Ukraine as it braces for a major offensive in its most eastern regions by Russian forces.
The Mi-17 is a Soviet-era helicopter designed in the mid-1970s which was previously relied on by Afghan forces and can be used in an aggressive capacity.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki first announced the U.S.’s intent to send Ukraine Mi-17s in the lead up to the Russian invasion in January, though Fox News could not immediately confirm if this shipment was sent.
The White House did not immediately respond to Fox News’ questions on what other equipment will be provided to Ukraine in lieu of the Mi-17s.
The administration has provided Kyiv with more than $1.7 billion in security assistance since Feb. 24, and the White House is expected to announce its latest package this week, first reported Reuters.
The U.S. has sent a litany of defensive equipment including shoulder-launched surface-to-air missiles, Stinger anti-aircraft systems, Javelin missiles, light anti-armor weapons, anti-armor systems and tactical unmanned aerial systems – including Switchblade drones armed with tank-busting warheads.
The U.S. has refused to provide warplanes to Kyiv despite Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s repeated requests for such aerial defenses.
The U.S. has voiced concern that providing warplanes could be aggressively interpreted by Russian President Vladimir Putin and spread the conflict beyond Ukraine’s borders.
In an address to Ukraine this week, Zelenskyy thanked allied nations for providing aid and security support but warned that Ukrainian forces are not being given what they need to effectively end the conflict.
The war has raged in Ukraine for nearly 50 days and western officials have warned that Russia is looking to recruit as many as 60,000 more troops to join the front.
Russia has maintained an estimated 80 percent of its fighting force and defense officials are expected to meet with eight of the U.S.’s top weapons manufacturers to discuss continued needs for Ukraine Wednesday, Reuters reported.
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