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Arsenal of Democracy

U.S. is sending Ukraine more HIMARS rocket systems. They're having a 'huge impact,' ex-CIA chief says.

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced Wednesday that the U.S. is sending Ukraine another military aid package, including four more High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS), adding to the 12 already delivered. "The Ukrainians have made excellent use of HIMARS and you can see the impact on the battlefield," he told reporters

Ukraine's effective use of these long-range, high-precision HIMARS is "steadily degrading the Russian ability to supply their troops, command and control of their forces, and carry out their illegal war of aggression," Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, said alongside Austin. Russia won control of Ukraine's eastern Luhansk province and is trying to take neighboring Donetsk, but "the Ukrainians are making the Russians pay for every inch of territory that they gain," and Russia has gained "very, very little" over the past 90 days. 

Russia has already lost an estimated 15,000 soldiers during its invasion and three times that number in wounded troops, CIA Director William Burns said Wednesday at Colorado's Aspen Security Forum, while Ukraine has lost "a little less than that."

After Russia's "very costly" Luhansk experience, "they had to move a number of their ammo storage sites, their fuel depots, and their headquarters out of range of the U.S.- and U.K.-provided multiple launch rocket systems, which have had a huge impact, especially with the accurate rockets that the U.S. has provided," former CIA director and Army Gen. David Petraeus told CNN on Wednesday.

U.S. HIMARS were an "important factor" helping Ukrainian forces "stabilize" the front line in eastern Donbas, top Ukrainian military commander Lt. Gen. Valeriy Zaluzhny said Tuesday, adding that Russian troops haven't made any significant gains since capturing Luhansk's Lysychansk two weeks ago. 

Meanwhile, Ukrainian forces are preparing a counteroffensive to retake strategically important southern Kherson province, and they used the HIMARS systems to hit the Antonivsky Bridge and threaten the Kakhovka dam on Tuesday and Wednesday. Those are the only Dnipro river crossings Russia can use to resupply its forces in Kherson city, The Wall Street Journal reports. The "looming battle" in Kherson will "determine whether Ukraine is able to claw back significant territories after its recent setbacks in the eastern Donbas area."

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told Russian state media on Wednesday that Moscow now intends to seize not just the Donbas but also Kherson, Zaporizhzhia, and other southern provinces. The West's delivery of HIMARS and other "long-range weapons," he argued, just "means that the geographical goals will be moved away from the current line even further."