Baltic states authorised to rush US-made weapons to Ukraine

A service member of the Ukrainian Armed Forces standing next to a rocket launcher during military exercises in Ukraine's Kherson region on Jan 19, 2022. PHOTO: REUTERS

VILNIUS (AFP) - The United States has given the green light for Baltic nations to rush US-made weapons to Ukraine, with Lithuania on Thursday (Jan 20) saying it hoped to deter "aggressor" Russia.

A US State Department official in Berlin, where Secretary of State Antony Blinken is holding crisis talks on Ukraine, said Washington was "expediting authorised transfers of US-origin equipment from other allies".

"European allies have what they need to move forward on additional security assistance (to) Ukraine in the coming days and weeks," the official said.

A source familiar with the authorisations said the approval was for urgent requests by Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania to assist Ukraine, a fellow former Soviet republic.

The exact amounts and types of weapons were not specified but the Baltic nations' arsenals include Javelins - portable missiles capable of destroying tanks.

Lithuanian Defence Minister Arvydas Anusauskas confirmed that his country was sending defence and other aid to Ukraine in a bid to deter Russia from attacking.

"History shows us that conceding to the aggressor eventually ends in a big war. We do not want this. Any country which is defending itself must have opportunities to do this," he told AFP.

"Our decision will contribute to the implementation of a deterrence policy."

His Latvian counterpart Artis Pabriks had on Wednesday signalled his country's intention to send Ukraine "both lethal and non-lethal defence equipment".

"We are currently compiling a list of items that we can give away, but it will be published only after everything will be transported to Ukraine," he said.

Estonia has said it plans to send "dozens" of Javelin anti-tank missiles and some 122mm howitzers.

The howitzers originally belonged to East Germany, then Germany and were bought by Finland in the 1990s.

Finland and Germany would have to give their approval for Estonia to send them to Ukraine.

Tens of thousands of Russian troops, along with tanks and artillery, have been deployed near the Ukrainian border since late last year, rattling the three Baltic nations, which are members of North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.

US President Joe Biden's administration has approved US$650 million (S$875 million) in weapons to Ukraine since last year, US$200 million of it last month amid fears of war.

Ukraine has voiced hope for military supplies as quickly as possible, with shipments from nearby countries especially valuable.

Britain has also rushed anti-tank weapons to Ukraine.

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