A bipartisan group of 16 US senators has asked the Biden administration to carefully reconsider Ukraine’s request for deadly 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, citing concerns that the drones could be shot down and the conflict.
As Russia increasingly turns to so-called kamikaze drones and attacks civilian infrastructure, Ukraine has made strong appeals to the US to provide it with powerful drones that can help they gain an advantage in the conflict.
In their letter, the senators gave Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin until Nov. 30 to explain why the Pentagon felt the drone was unsuitable for combat in Ukraine.
Earlier on Tuesday, a Russian-installed governor in 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 currently working,” he said on social media. “There is an attack by drones. According to preliminary information, two UAVs [uncrewed aerial vehicles] have already been shot. All troops and services are on standby.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called for more help on Tuesday, blaming Russia for using winter temperatures as a “weapon of mass destruction” by attacking Ukraine’s energy infrastructure.
“The Kremlin wants to turn the cold into a weapon of mass destruction this winter,” Ukraine’s president said in a video message at a meeting of French mayors.
To get through the Ukrainian winter of the conflict, Zelenskyy urged the Association of French Mayors to send generators, support for demining operations and equipment for Ukraine’s emergency services and medics.
Half of Ukraine’s energy infrastructure has been damaged by Russian attacks, Zelenskyy said, leaving millions without electricity and water as winter sets in and temperatures dip below freezing.
Rising power consumption during the cold months has led Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal to announce emergency shutdowns in addition to the planned shutdowns currently taking place across the country.
Sergey Kovalenko, head of the YASNO private energy supplier for Kiev, said workers are rushing to finish repairs before the winter cold sets in, but Ukrainians will likely have to live with blackouts at least until the end of March.
The damage to Ukrainian power plants from Russian missile strikes is “colossal,” said the head of Ukraine’s national power grid operator.
Volodymyr Kudrytskyi, chief executive officer of Ukrenergo, told a briefing that despite the damage, his company wanted to continue helping to create the conditions necessary for Ukrainians to stay in the country over the winter.
The US continued its efforts to accelerate aid to Ukraine and urged other donors to do the same as it announced a $4.5 billion payment in economic aid to be rolled out in the coming weeks.
The funds are intended to “bolster economic stability and support key government services,” said US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen.
Ukraine also today received a new 2.5 billion euro ($2.58 billion) tranche of macro-financial assistance (MFA) from the European Union, bringing the total amount of MFA provided to Ukraine as of February 24 to 6.7 billion euros.
Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal wrote further Twitter that the aid was “another step of solidarity” and expressed their gratitude to EU leaders.
In a bid to continue its support for Ukraine, Canada said on Tuesday it will impose more sanctions on the government of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko for supporting Russia’s war in Ukraine.
Ottawa said it would sanction 22 Belarusian officials and 16 Belarusian companies involved in military production, technology, engineering, banking and rail transportation.
It said the officials included some who were “accomplices in the stationing and transport of Russian military personnel and equipment involved in the invasion of Ukraine”.