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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Biden aims to give Kyiv air defense systems; G-7 meets as NATO plans to boost forces

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy meets with U.S. President Joe Biden in the Oval Office at the White House on Sept. 1, 2021, in Washington, D.C. Biden told Zelenskyy the U.S. intends to provide Kyiv with advanced medium- and long-range air defense capabilities.  (Doug Mills/Tribune News Service)
By Ashley Parker,Matt Viser,Loveday Morris,Annabelle Timsit,Bryan Pietsch,Rachel Pannett,Jennifer Hassan and Adam Taylor

President Joe Biden told Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that the United States intends to provide Kyiv with advanced medium- and long-range air defense capabilities, national security adviser Jake Sullivan said Monday. Washington is “in the process of finalizing a package” that will also include other items of “urgent need, including ammunition for artillery and counter-battery radar systems,” Sullivan said, according to a pool report.

Meeting in Germany’s Bavarian Alps, leaders from the Group of Seven, the world’s wealthiest democracies, pledged to “stand with Ukraine for as long as it takes” – after Zelensky, addressing the summit by video link, asked the group for more heavy weapons to force a Russian retreat before winter. The Ukrainian leader requested modern antiaircraft systems and more powerful arms to launch counterattacks. G-7 leaders were also “very close” to an agreement on a global price cap for Russian oil shipments – a measure designed to disrupt a key source of funding for Russia’s war in Ukraine, a senior U.S. official said.

NATO will kick-start the “biggest overhaul” of its defense and deterrence capabilities since the Cold War in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Monday. The alliance is set to ramp up its ability to respond to a crisis, notably by increasing the size of its high-readiness forces from around 40,000 “to well over 300,000,” Stoltenberg said ahead of a NATO summit in Madrid.

Russia hit the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, with a barrage of missile strikes on Sunday, in what was “likely a direct response to Western leaders discussing aid to Ukraine” at the G-7 summit, analysts from the Institute for the Study of War said. The missiles struck an apartment block and a kindergarten playground, killing a man and injuring his 7-year-old daughter, among several others. And an overnight missile strike on the southern Ukrainian coastal city of Odessa damaged several residential buildings and injured at least eight people, including one child, local officials said.

The same day, Russia defaulted on its foreign currency debt for the first time in more than a century – although the Kremlin said its attempts to pay its overseas creditors were rejected due to Western sanctions.

The country has the cash but is unable to get it to creditors because sanctions have cut Russia out of international payment systems. A deadline for an overdue $100 million interest payment expired Sunday. Russian President Vladimir Putin had proposed paying creditors in rubles, which could then be converted to dollars, after the U.S. Treasury Department closed a loophole that had allowed the Kremlin to make debt payments owed to American bondholders through American banks.

Russia is attempting to draw Belarus more directly into the war, according to Ukrainian officials, who said Saturday marked the first time that Russian warplanes fired missiles from Belarusian airspace.

Biden to award Medal of Honor to soldiers for valor in Vietnam War

President Joe Biden will award the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest recognition for combat valor, to four U.S. Army veterans who fought their way through intense battles during the Vietnam War more than 50 years ago, White House officials said Monday.

The recipients are Spec. 5th Class Dwight Birdwell, who led an armored unit through a bloody ambush in 1968; Maj. John Duffy, a Special Forces officer who fought off an attack on his fire base in 1972; Spec. 5th Class Dennis Fujii, who directed airstrikes on advancing forces while under fire in Laos in 1971 and after surviving a helicopter crash; and Staff Sgt. Edward Kaneshiro, who single-handedly cleared a trench of enemy fighters using grenades and a rifle in 1967.

All four will have previous awards upgraded, with Kaneshiro receiving the honor posthumously. The ceremony is scheduled for July 5.

From wire reports