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Austin to Convene Meeting on Ukraine Defense

By C. Todd Lopez

WASHINGTON (Jan. 19, 2023) -- Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III will convene another meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group tomorrow at Ramstein Air Base in Germany. The meeting will be the eighth in a series of meetings, initiated in April 2022, to discuss current and future efforts to provide support to Ukraine in maintaining its sovereignty.

"The contact group has been instrumental in identifying, synchronizing and ensuring the delivery of military capabilities the Ukrainians need to defend their homeland against Russian aggression," Deputy Pentagon Press Secretary Sabrina Singh said during a briefing today. "The secretary looks forward to meeting with defense leaders from approximately 50 nations that comprise this important group dedicated to Ukraine self defense."

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Also expected to be forthcoming is another announcement regarding U.S. assistance to Ukraine, though the specific date hasn't been announced. Singh couldn't say what would be in that package, but she suggested that, like packages in the past, it would align closely with both what the Ukrainians need most on the battlefield and what the U.S. is able to provide.

"We should expect another security package coming soon," she said. "But we know that the Ukrainians have continued to ask for, ... one of their main priorities, is more armored vehicles, air defense systems. And, so, each package, as you've seen, sort of matches some of their biggest needs and requests. And, so, I'd expect with the next packet you'd see something like that."

Retaking Crimea

Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov has said he expects Ukraine will reclaim the Crimean Peninsula from Russia, and that his country will use weapons provided by the West -- including the U.S. -- as part of that effort.

The Russians invaded Crimea in 2014 and claimed to have annexed it as part of Russia. The Ukrainians and the United States consider Crimea to be a part of Ukraine, which is now illegally occupied by Russia.

Singh reiterated to reporters what the U.S. has said in the past: Crimea is Ukraine, and the U.S. will continue to help Ukraine reclaim its sovereignty.

"Crimea is part of Ukraine. We've long held that position ... We certainly support the Ukrainians taking back their territory by any means that they can and whatever weapons they are using. We have not shied away from stating that fact from the very beginning."

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