(Bloomberg) -- The 18 High Mobility Artillery Systems that are part of the new $1.1 billion US assistance package to Ukraine have not yet been built and it will take a few years before they are delivered, a Defense Department official said Wednesday. 

The Ukrainians have used the HIMARS rocket launchers that have already been shipped to strike Russian supply lines. 

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced an eighth package of sanctions that will target Russia over its attempt to annex more territory in Ukraine. The measures will include a price cap on Russian oil exports. “We intend to make the Kremlin pay” for this further escalation, she said. 

Separately, European allies were considering how to respond to a disruption of the Nord Stream natural gas pipeline as Russia threatened to cut off the last gas supplies to them via Ukraine. Jens Stoltenberg, secretary general of the NATO military alliance, said after meeting Danish Defense Minister Morten Bodskov that they discussed “the protection of critical infrastructure.”


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Key Developments

  • More US Artillery Prized by Ukrainians Won’t Arrive for Years
  • Iran’s Drones Are Cheap, Plentiful and Helping Russia in Ukraine
  • Ukraine’s Plea for Tanks Bogs Down as US, Germany Confront Risks
  • Russia Declares Victory in Sham Ukraine ‘Referendums’

On the Ground

Russia pounded Ukraine’s second largest city Kharkiv Tuesday evening, the regional governor Oleh Synyehubov said on Telegram, adding that there were no casualties according to preliminary information. Air-defense forces shot down Russian missiles in the Mykolaiv, Odesa and Dnipropetrovsk regions, Ukrainian military’s southern command said on Facebook. Ukrainian troops repelled Russian attacks near eight settlements, Ukraine’s General Staff reported in its morning update. The Washington-based Institute for the Study of War said in its latest report that Ukrainian forces consolidated positions on the eastern bank of the Oskil river and advanced further on the outskirts of Lyman in the Donetsk region, while continuing to target Russian supply lines as part of a southern counter-offensive.

All times CET:

US Artillery Prized by Ukrainians Won’t Arrive for Years (10:59 p.m.)

The highly-prized HIMARS artillery system in the US’s latest $1.1 billion security assistance package for Ukraine will take a few years to be built and delivered, a Pentagon official said Wednesday.

The US announced it would send 18 High Mobility Artillery Systems, made by Lockheed Martin Corp., as part of the new assistance package. Unlike the 16 HIMARS already sent from existing Pentagon stocks, the new ones will have to be produced under contract through the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, according to the official, who briefed reporters on condition of anonymity.

Although Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy welcomed what he called the “critical equipment that’ll bring victory closer,” the latest security assistance package is meant to be the beginning of a contracting process for Ukraine’s mid-to-long-term defense, the US defense official said. Other equipment will take six to 24 months to get to Ukraine as well, the official added.

EU Says Gas Price Cap Alone Risks Aggravating Energy Crisis (8:32 p.m.)

The European Union needs to rely on a combination of tools rather than market intervention alone to limit the effects of an energy crunch that has companies and households reeling from record power and gas bills, the bloc’s executive arm told governments on Wednesday.

Capping natural gas prices, a move urged by more than a half of member states seeking to quickly contain the crisis, risks increasing demand for the fuel rather than addressing its scarcity if imposed in isolation, the European Commission said in a document seen by Bloomberg News. The 27-member bloc is grappling to limit soaring energy costs after Russia cut supplies of natural gas following President Vladimir Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine.

Read the full story here.

US Sending HIMARS Rockets, Armored Vehicles in $1.1 Billion Package (8:03 p.m.)

The Biden administration announced a $1.1 billion package of additional weapons and equipment to Ukraine.

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters that it includes 18 new High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, beyond the 16 already committed. She said “it also includes hundreds of armored vehicles, radars and counter drone systems.”

Jean-Pierre also said sham referendums conducted by Russia in occupied areas of Ukraine “were straight from the Kremlin playbook. They were manufactured and manipulated. Ukrainian civilians were forced to cast ballots under the watch of armed guards.”

Putin’s Approval Rating Falls Amid Partial Mobilization (7:51 p.m.)

Approval ratings for Putin fell to 77% in September from 83% in August, according to the latest poll by the independent Levada Center. The first drop in approval since April comes days after Putin ordered a partial mobilization last week. The poll found 21% of respondents don’t approve Putin’s actions as his nation’s leader, the highest since February, when Russia invaded Ukraine.

Finland Says Only a State Actor Capable of Nord Stream Sabotage (7:45 p.m.)

The rupture of the Nord Stream natural-gas pipelines in the Baltic Sea can only have been carried out by a state actor, Finland’s Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto said.

“We’ve known that sabotage against critical infrastructure has been a realistic threat,” Haavisto told reporters in Helsinki on Wednesday. The acts appear to have been “deliberate” and “may have been intended to destabilize the Baltic Sea area,” Prime Minister Sanna Marin said at the same news conference.

Even so, the three leaks in international waters in the exclusive economic zones of Denmark and Sweden indicate no military threat against Finland, said Antti Kaikkonen, the defense minister. The military situation in Finland’s vicinity is stable and calm, he said.

Putin’s Draft Order Sparks Exodus of Russians (5:12 p.m.) 

At least 200,000 Russians left the country after President Vladimir Putin’s mobilization order in a dash for safety that’s causing turmoil at the borders and stirring fears in neighboring states about potential instability from the influx.

While Russia hasn’t released official data, statistics from Georgia, Kazakhstan and the European Union showed the scale of the departures amid fears among conscription-age men that the Kremlin may close the border for them. The total is likely an underestimate as other nearby countries popular with Russians including Armenia, Azerbaijan and Turkey haven’t disclosed arrival figures.

Scholz Rejects Russia’s ‘Pretend Referenda’ (5:03 p.m.)

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz held another telephone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and reiterated that the government in Berlin will “never recognize” the results of what he called “pretend referenda” in Russian occupied areas of Ukraine.

Scholz “stressed that Germany would not stop providing concrete political, financial and humanitarian support to Ukraine, as well as in the defense of its sovereignty and territorial integrity, including with weapons supplies,” according to an emailed statement from his spokesman.

EU Announces New Sanctions Package (4:16 p.m.) 

The European Union proposed a new round of sanctions targeting Russia after Moscow announced a partial mobilization and staged widely condemned referendums on annexations in Ukrainian territory it’s occupying.

In addition to imposing a price cap on Russian oil, the measures will include an import ban on Russian products that will deprive Moscow of 7 billion euros ($6.7 billion) in revenue as well as export restrictions on aviation products, electronic components and chemical substances, von der Leyen told reporters in Brussels. 

Sanctions need to be approved unanimously by the EU’s 27 member states before they can be imposed.

Read more: EU Plans New Russia Import Bans, Tech Curbs Over Putin Land Grab

Lithuania to Mull Further Security Measures For Infrastructure (12:40 a.m.)

Lithuania, which stepped up security for its strategic energy infrastructure in February when Russia invaded Ukraine, said the government will discuss whether additional measures are needed following the Nord Stream disruption. Energy Minister Dainius Kreivys said consultations will be held with the defense ministry and army officials. 

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