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Blinken unveils $2B in new US military aid for Europe

FILE - In this Feb. 26, 2021, file photo State Secretary Antony Blinken speaks during a news conference at the State Department in Washington. Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin are heading to Japan and South Korea for four days of talks starting Monday, March 15, as the administration seeks to shore up partnerships with the two key regional treaty allies.  (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, Pool, File)

RZESZOW, Poland (AP) — U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Thursday announced major new military aid worth more than 2 billion dollars for Ukraine and other European countries threatened by Russia.

Blinken said the Biden administration would provide $2 billion in long-term military assistance to Ukraine and 18 of its neighbors, including NATO members and regional security partners “most potentially at risk for future Russian aggression.”

That’s on top of a $675-million package of heavy weaponry, ammunition and armored vehicles for Ukraine alone that Defense Secretary Llloyd Austin announced earlier Thursday at a conference in Germany.

The contributions bring total U.S. aid to Ukraine to $15.2 billion since the administration took office. Officials said the new commitments were intended to show that American support for the country in the face of Russia’s invasion is unwavering.

The announcements came as fighting between Ukraine and Russia has intensified in recent days, with Ukrainian forces mounting a counteroffensive to retake Russian-held areas in the south and east.

And, it came a day after shelling continued near Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, Europe’s largest, with the warring sides trading blame again amid dire warnings from the U.N. atomic watchdog for the creation of a safe zone to prevent a catastrophe.

Also Wednesday, the U.S. accused Moscow of interrogating, detaining and forcibly deporting hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians to Russia. Russian officials immediately rejected the claim as “fantasy.”