Sat, 10 Dec 2022

Pentagon: Ukraine's Defense Matters Globally

Voice of America
20 Nov 2022, 10:36 GMT+10

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Ukraine's defense has global implications. At the Halifax International Security Forum on Saturday, he warned that Russia's invasion of Ukraine offers a preview of a world where nuclear-armed countries could threaten other nations.

'Putin's fellow autocrats are watching,' Austin said. 'And they could well conclude that getting nuclear weapons would give them a hunting license of their own. And that could drive a dangerous spiral of nuclear proliferation,' he added.

Austin also said Moscow's efforts to gain support from countries such as Iran and North Korea create new security challenges for the United States and its allies.

'Russia has turned to Iran and North Korea to help its assault on Ukraine, including using Iranian drones to kill Ukrainian civilians,' he said.

Austin vowed that the United States would continue defending humanitarian principles and international law.

Earlier, the Pentagon's top policy adviser, Colin Kahl said Russia is trying to deplete Ukraine's air defenses and achieve dominance over Ukrainian skies.

Russia has been pummeling Ukraine with missile strikes throughout the past week, the heaviest wave since Moscow invaded nine months ago.

'They're really trying to overwhelm and exhaust Ukrainian air defense systems,' Kahl, the Pentagon's undersecretary of defense for policy, told reporters Saturday during a trip to the Middle East.

Kahl said that, so far, Russia has not succeeded in breaking the Ukrainian air force and air defenses.

'I think one of the things that probably surprised the Russians the most is how resilient Ukraine's air defenses have been since the beginning of this conflict,' he said.

He attributed Ukraine's resilience to the 'ingenuity and cleverness of the Ukrainians themselves in keeping their air defense systems viable,' but he noted that 'the United States and other allies and partners [that] have provided a tremendous amount of support.'

Britain pledged a $59.4 million air defense package Saturday for Ukraine, including anti-aircraft guns and technology to counter Iranian-supplied drones to Russia. British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak made the announcement on his first trip to Kyiv, posting a video of his visit on Twitter and pledging 'We are with you all the way.'

In this photo provided by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Office, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, left, and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak look at destroyed Russian military vehicles on display in downtown Kyiv, Ukraine, Nov. 19, 2022. In this photo provided by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Office, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, left, and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak look at destroyed Russian military vehicles on display in downtown Kyiv, Ukraine, Nov. 19, 2022.

In its intelligence update Saturday, Britain's Defense Ministry said that on Wednesday, Russia held its 'largest ever debt issuance in a single day.'

The issuance, the ministry said, 'is a key mechanism to sustain defense spending, which has increased significantly since the invasion of Ukraine.'

The issuance raised $13.6 billion, according to the update posted on Twitter.

Russia has announced a 2023 defense budget of about $84 billion, more than 40% higher than its initial 2023 budget announced in 2021.

'The size of this auction,' the Defense Ministry said, 'highly likely indicates the Russian Ministry of Finance perceives current conditions as relatively favorable but is anticipating an increasingly uncertain fiscal environment over the next year.'

In Kyiv people woke up Saturday to several inches of snow. Ukrainian authorities in the capital are warning of a 'complete shutdown,' as subzero temperatures grip the country.

Russian airstrikes have inflicted heavy damage on the energy grid of the Ukrainian capital while they continue to pound Ukraine in multiple parts of the country - from Kyiv in the north to Odesa in the south - crushing almost half of Ukraine's energy system, Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said.

'They are determined to destroy our power grids,' said Andriy Yermak, head of the Office of the President of Ukraine, in a speech at the Halifax International Security Forum in Canada.

'The calculation is simple: a humanitarian catastrophe. Moscow always considers frost and darkness as its allies. It always uses the deprivation of basic life needs as a war tool. It always despises humanitarian law. Russia is a terrorist state,' Yermak said.

A woman walks past her house, severely damaged by Russian shelling, in Kramatorsk, Ukraine, Nov. 19, 2022. A woman walks past her house, severely damaged by Russian shelling, in Kramatorsk, Ukraine, Nov. 19, 2022.

Amid freezing temperatures, difficulties with energy supplies persist throughout Ukraine - Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Saturday, in his nightly video address.

'Energy workers are doing everything possible to give people a normal life,' he said.

He added transport connections are being restored in Kherson.

'There is the first train from Kyiv. We create new opportunities for people every day,' Zelenskyy said.

In message earlier Saturday, Zelenskyy also addressed the annual Halifax International Security Forum.'

'The end of the war doesn't guarantee peace. Russia is now looking for a short truce, a respite to regain strength ... such a respite will only worsen the situation,' he said.

A Ukrainian sniper unit takes aim at Russian positions in the Kherson region, southern Ukraine, Nov. 19, 2022. A Ukrainian sniper unit takes aim at Russian positions in the Kherson region, southern Ukraine, Nov. 19, 2022.

Hundreds detained, missing in Kherson

A Yale University report backed by the U.S. State Department reveals that 226 people were detained or disappeared between March and October, during Russia's occupation of Kherson.

The Conflict Observatory, a Yale university research program supported by the U.S. State Department, released its independent report Friday. It describes numerous instances of unjust detentions and disappearances in Kherson. 'Russia must halt these operations and withdraw its forces to end a needless war that it cannot and will not win - no matter how despicable and desperate its tactics,' a State Department statement announced Friday.

Investigators in liberated areas of the Kherson region have uncovered 63 bodies bearing marks of what appeared to have been torture, Ukraine Interior Minister Denys Monastyrsky was quoted as saying.

VOA has not been able to independently verify those claims.

Russia denies its troops have targeted civilians or have committed atrocities during the war in Ukraine. A claim U.N. investigators dispute.

Jeff Seldin contributed to this report. Some information came from Agence France-Presse, Reuters and The Associated Press.

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