Latest news on the Russia-Ukraine war: live updates

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will host a summit in Germany next week to build support for Ukraine’s defense and security needs, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said Thursday.

The “Ukrainian Defense Advisory Group”, which will meet on Tuesday at Ramstein Air Base in Germany, has the appearance of a donors’ conference. But Kirby said its ambitions are broader, and the group will not only focus on Ukraine’s short-term military assistance needs and the latest battlefield assessments, but also take “a longer and broader defense needs of Ukraine, beyond the war that they are facing right now.

“We think it’s time to have this discussion,” Kirby said.

It is not yet known exactly which nations have been invited to participate in the discussion or have accepted the invitation. Kirby said the developing guest list includes both NATO allies and other countries outside of NATO.

The planned summit comes as the United States steps up its military assistance to Ukraine. On Thursday, the Biden administration announced it would send an additional $800 million in defense equipment to Ukraine, starting in the next few days, including 72 howitzers and 144,000 artillery shells — the kind of firepower that Kirby said Ukraine was in “critical” need.

The package also includes a new unmanned aerial system called the Phoenix Ghost, which Kirby says has similar capabilities to Switchblade drones.

“Its main purpose is attack,” Kirby added, saying the drone system “would lend itself well to this particular type of terrain” in the Donbass region, currently the focal point of the Russian invasion.

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