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When it meets for the second time on Monday, a group of international defense chiefs created by US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to coordinate military help for Ukraine is expected to grow.

The Ukraine Contact Group, which had 40 member nations at its maiden meeting on April 26 at Ramstein Air Base in Germany, has subsequently gained traction. Defense authorities in the United States declined to provide a number because answers were still coming in. The meeting will take place by video conferencing.

“There are some countries that have shown an interest in participating that weren’t in the first meeting,” Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said Friday. “There’s not a cap on it, and we would love to have as many countries as possible.

“In its first iteration, you had countries from the Middle East, you had countries from the Indo-Pacific,” he said. “It wasn’t just Europe, and it certainly wasn’t just NATO. There was a true global community there of countries that were interested in what’s going on in Ukraine.”

According to a British source who spoke on the condition of anonymity, British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace, a co-organizer of the push, is due to give an opening remark alongside Austin and a Ukrainian delegate. According to the source, as of Friday, 18 nations were drafting statements about giving new equipment.

According to Austin, the group’s goal is to meet Ukraine’s short- and long-term requirements. Monday’s agenda will be dominated by Kyiv’s urgent needs, as Ukrainian forces prepare for grueling fighting in the country’s east.

“It’s an important new way for nations of goodwill to intensify their efforts to help Ukraine better defend itself, both for today’s urgent needs and for the long haul,” Austin said in May 11 congressional testimony. “Our most urgent goal continues to be sending the Ukrainians the capabilities they need most right now, as the war has shifted to the Donbass and to the south. The coming weeks will be critical.”

Germany agreed to give Ukraine with 50 Cheetah air-defense vehicles at the last conference. According to German television ZDF, the automobiles will be delivered in July. Along with Canada’s offer of eight armored vehicles, the British government agreed to help Ukraine with anti-aircraft capability.

In advance of the contact group meeting, Austin will speak with Ukraine’s defense minister, Oleksii Reznikov, to discuss its military requirements, according to Kirby. Reznikov, like at the first meeting, will provide an update on the conflict and communicate Ukraine’s demands, following which the member nations will decide how to satisfy them.

Speaking at the EU Foreign Affairs Council on Wednesday, Reznikov warned that Russia is preparing for a long war against his country.
“There are many indications of Russia preparing for a long-term military operation. The war is entering a protracted phase,” he said. “We can already see how the Russian occupiers are beginning engineering and fortification works in the Kherson [and] Zaporizhya [regions].”

With the civilian population of Ukraine under assault, Reznikov stated that the country wants to get the weaponry it requires to terminate the fight as quickly as possible — “and in the correct amounts.”

“We need tanks, armored vehicles, long-range fire weapons systems” as well as multiple launch rocket systems, heavy artillery, aircraft, missiles, he said. “We strive to save the lives of our people.”

Western defense authorities have previously rejected the delivery of weapon types capable of spreading the battle beyond Ukraine’s borders. On Friday, Kirby stated that the Pentagon can satisfy Ukraine’s demands while avoiding an escalation of the war.

“Nobody wants to see it escalate beyond the incredibly brutal violence that is already visited upon the Ukrainian people,” Kirby said.

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