U.S. State Dept backs ammunition sale for Ukraine -statement

A boy stands next to a wrecked vehicle in front of a damaged apartment building in Mariupol
A boy stands next to a wrecked vehicle in front of an apartment building damaged during Ukraine-Russia conflict in the southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine April 24, 2022. REUTERS/Alexander Ermochenko

WASHINGTON, April 25 (Reuters) - The U.S. State Department on Monday used an emergency declaration for the first time during the Biden administration to approve the potential sale of $165 million worth of ammunition to Ukraine to help the country defend itself against Russia's ongoing invasion, the Pentagon said.

The Ukrainian government had asked to buy various rounds of so-called nonstandard ammunition, the department said in a statement, referring to ammunition that does not adhere to NATO standards.

The Pentagon said the package could include artillery ammunition for howitzers, tanks and grenade launchers such as 152mm rounds for 2A36 Giatsint; 152mm rounds for D-20 cannons; VOG-17 for automatic grenade launcher AGS-17; 125mm HE ammunition for T-72 and 152mm rounds for 2A65 Msta.

"As Ukrainian forces expend ammunition to defend their country, their daily replenishment requirements continue to increase," a State Department official said.

"Critically low stores of ammunition for their fielded systems" were among the reasons the State Department official said that "an emergency exists."

An emergency declaration has not been used since 2019 when the Trump administration informed congressional committees that it would go ahead with 22 military sales to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Jordan, infuriating lawmakers by circumventing a long-standing precedent for congressional review of major weapons sales.

The Pentagon's Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress of the possible sale to Ukraine on Sunday.

"The Biden administration appears to argue that countering Russian aggression is in U.S. national security interest, which is not that different than what Trump did with regard to Iran" and the 2019 sales to Middle East allies, Jeff Abramson, a senior fellow at Arms Control Association, told Reuters.

But thus far Ukraine has had very broad bipartisan support. "If this were being provided to a country with less general agreement as being in need, you would expect to see members of Congress raise the question of whether this truly is an emergency from a U.S. security perspective," Abramson said.

The Pentagon did not identify the prime contractor for the weapons but did say that Foreign Military Financing would be used to pay for the munitions.

Reporting by Susan Heavey and Mike Stone in Washington Editing by Matthew Lewis

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