A bipartisan group of 16 US senators has asked the Biden administration to carefully reconsider Ukraine’s request for lethal Gray Eagle drones to fight Russia.
The Biden administration has so far rejected requests for the Gray Eagle drone, which has an operational ceiling of 8,800 meters (29,000 ft) and can fly for more than 24 hours, based on concerns that the drones could be shot down and could escalate conflict .
As Russia increasingly turns to so-called kamikaze drones and attacks on civilian infrastructure, Ukraine has strongly appealed to the United States to supply the country with powerful drones that could help them gain an advantage in the conflict.
In their letter, the senators have given Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin until November 30 to explain why the Pentagon thought the drone was not appropriate for the fight in Ukraine.
Earlier on Tuesday, a Russian-installed governor of Crimea, Mikhail Razvozhaev, announced the shooting down of two drones in the city of Sevastopol, where Russian air defenses had been activated.
“Our air defense forces are working right now,” he said on social media. “There is an attack from drones. According to the preliminary information, two UAVs [uncrewed aerial vehicles] has already been shot down. All forces and services are on alert.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy appealed for more help on Tuesday, accusing Russia of using winter temperatures as a “weapon of mass destruction” by attacking Ukraine’s energy infrastructure.
“The Kremlin wants to turn the cold this winter into a weapon of mass destruction,” Ukraine’s president told a meeting of French mayors in a video message.
To get through the Ukrainian winter during the conflict, Zelenskyy called on the Association of French Mayors to send generators, support for demining operations and equipment for Ukraine’s emergency services and doctors.
Half of Ukraine’s energy infrastructure has been damaged by Russian attacks, Zelenskyy said, leaving millions of people without electricity and water as winter sets in and temperatures drop below freezing.
Rising power consumption during the cold months has prompted Ukraine’s Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal to announce emergency shutdowns in addition to the planned ones currently taking place across the country.
Sergey Kovalenko, head of YASNO’s private energy supplier to Kiev, said workers are rushing to complete repairs before the winter cold arrives, but Ukrainians are likely to live with power outages at least until the end of March.
The damage to Ukrainian power generation facilities by Russian missile attacks has been “colossal”, the head of Ukraine’s national power grid operator said.
Volodymyr Kudrytskyi, CEO of Ukrenergo, told a briefing that despite the damage, his company still wanted to help create the necessary conditions for Ukrainians to stay in the country through the winter.
The United States continued efforts to speed up aid to Ukraine and called on other donors to do the same as it announced a disbursement of $4.5 billion. in financial aid, which will begin to roll out in the coming weeks.
The funds are aimed at “strengthening economic stability and supporting key government services,” US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said.
Ukraine also received a new €2.5 billion ($2.58 billion) tranche of macro-financial assistance (MFA) from the EU today, bringing the total amount of MFA to Ukraine as of February 24 to €6.7 billion ($6.9 billion).
Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal wrote further Twitter that the aid was “another step in solidarity”, and expressed gratitude to EU leaders.
In an effort to continue its support for Ukraine, Canada said Tuesday it will impose more sanctions on the administration of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko for supporting Russia’s war in Ukraine.
Ottawa said it would sanction an additional 22 Belarusian officials and 16 Belarusian companies involved in military manufacturing, technology, engineering, banking and rail transportation.
It said the officials included some who were “complicit in the stationing and transportation of Russian military personnel and equipment involved in the invasion of Ukraine”.