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Ukraine briefing: NATO talks focus on weapons production; U.S. general says Russia ‘lost’


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BRUSSELS — NATO countries and Western allies on Wednesday announced more weapons and ammunition for Ukraine, moving to boost Kyiv’s military capabilities as Russia escalated attacks in the east. The alliance’s defense chiefs had gathered in Brussels to coordinate a long-term response to the Russian invasion, which has united NATO but also depleted ammunition stocks in allied countries.

“Even as we rush to support Ukraine in the critical months ahead, we must all replenish our stockpiles to strengthen our deterrence and defense for the long term,” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Wednesday as the meetings concluded.

Despite Austin’s assurances, a new poll found that support among Americans for providing weapons to Ukraine has dropped, from 60 percent last spring to 48 percent in January.

Here’s the latest on the war and its ripple effects across the globe.

Khodorkovsky warns West of war with China if Russia wins in Ukraine

Key developments

  • Western nations pledged 48 Leopard 2 tanks for Ukraine while the Netherlands plans to send 20,000 rounds of tank ammunition, German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius said. Sweden also promised Archer artillery cannons, infantry fighting vehicles and anti-tank weapons for Ukrainian forces. Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson said that the arms package would “make a significant contribution to Ukraine’s combat power,” the Associated Press reported.
  • Ukraine shot down several small Russian balloons over Kyiv on Wednesday, the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense said in a statement posted to Telegram. The balloons appeared to be decoy targets meant to divert attention and waste ammunition, the statement said.
  • Russia has “lost strategically, operationally and tactically,” Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, said after meetings in Brussels with defense chiefs from countries supporting Kyiv.
  • The head of Russia’s Wagner Group said that “for a long time” he ran the internet troll farm that faced U.S. sanctions over charges of meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Yevgeniy Prigozhin, whose mercenary forces are fighting alongside Russia in Ukraine, said on Telegram that he created and managed the Internet Research Agency to “protect the Russian information space from the boorish aggressive propaganda of anti-Russian assertions from the West.”

Battleground updates

  • Ukraine’s armed forces said heavy fighting is raging around Bakhmut. Russian artillery pounded districts in the besieged city as Ukrainian troops fought to repel attacks, the military said early Wednesday. Russian forces have ramped up their attacks in recent weeks on the city in the eastern Donetsk region.
  • Russian forces did not cause Ukrainian troops to retreat from their positions in Luhansk in eastern Ukraine, the region’s governor said on Telegram Wednesday. Russia’s Defense Ministry said earlier in the day that its forces had breached Ukrainian defensive lines in the region, and that the troops had fled 3 kilometers (1.8 miles) from their positions.
  • Britain is “delivering for Ukraine the effects they need on the battlefield,” rather than fighter jets, which require months of training, British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said Wednesday. He said Ukraine’s backers can help faster by providing weapons such as antiaircraft missiles after Kyiv recently renewed calls for Western allies to send fighter jets.

Global impact

  • The European Union’s latest sanctions package against Russia also targets Iran, European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said Wednesday in a statement. The move seeks to stop Iran from providing drones for Russia’s war in Ukraine, she said. The package, which requires approval from the 27 E.U. nations, includes export bans worth 11 billion euros ($11.7 billion dollars) on critical technology and goods such as electronics, specialized vehicles and spare parts for trucks and jet engines.
  • Most Americans still think the United States should play at least some role in the war effort, but support for specific U.S. interventions — such as providing weapons to Ukraine or imposing economic sanctions against Russia — has declined, according to a new AP-NORC poll.
  • The United Nations said Wednesday it was appealing for $5.6 billion to help millions of people in Ukraine and countries that have taken in refugees by providing food, health care and other aid needs.
  • China is trying to “have it both ways” by offering to mediate talks to end the war while also committing to its “no limits partnership” with Russia, Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman said Wednesday. “We are concerned about this growing relationship, just as we are concerned about Iran’s growing relationship with Russia,” Sherman said at an event at the Brookings Institution.

From our correspondents

Ukraine’s allies rush to send more equipment, risking logjams: Senior U.S. officials say time is growing short for Ukraine’s backers to dispatch vast quantities of new equipment that its forces are awaiting to launch a spring counteroffensive, Karen DeYoung and Emily Rauhala report.

“There was a palpable sense of urgency as top military and defense officials gathered here for the latest meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group,” they write from Brussels.

Ables reported from Seoul, Francis from London, Cunningham and Westfall from Washington and Abbakumova from Riga, Latvia. Beatriz Rios in Brussels contributed to this report.