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U.S. to provide Ukraine with more weapons as Putin signals end to unpopular mobilization drive

“The United States has delivered unprecedented security assistance to Ukraine and will continue to work with allies and partners,” the Pentagon said in a statement.
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Missiles, rockets and anti-tank weapons will form part of a new security assistance package for Ukraine, the Defense Department said Friday, hours after Russian President Vladimir Putin signaled an end to his unpopular mobilization drive.

Valued at up to $725 million, the Pentagon said in a statement that the package would include, additional ammunition for High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS), 5,000 anti-tank weapons, as well as vehicles and artillery rounds.

“The United States has delivered unprecedented security assistance to Ukraine and will continue to work with allies and partners to ensure Ukraine has the support it needs,” the statement said.

The U.S. has contributed approximately $17.6 billion in security assistance “since the beginning of Russia’s unprovoked and brutal invasion on February 24,” it added.

The Pentagon's announcement came after Putin indicated that his controversial military mobilization drive was ending.

“This work is coming to an end,” he told journalists Friday after a conference attended by regional leaders in Kazakhstan’s capital, Astana.

Indicating that the mobilization drive would be concluded in two weeks, he added that 222,000 out of an expected 300,000 reservists had already been conscripted.

The order — the first mobilization of reservists in Russia since World War II —triggered protests across the country, while thousands attempted to avoid the call-up by fleeing to neighboring countries like Georgia, Belarus and Armenia.

Others have sailed to South Korea and two Russian nationals sought asylum in Alaska last week after arriving by boat.

Members of ethnic minorities and rural residents have complained of being drafted at higher rates than ethnic Russians and city dwellers.

Putin also said Russia had no plans “for now” for more massive air strikes like those it carried out this week, which saw more than 100 long range missiles fired at targets across Ukraine. From Lviv in the west to Kharkiv in the northeast, missiles tore through rush-hour traffic and into energy facilities.

Putin sought to frame the attacks as revenge for the blast that damaged his signature bridge connecting Russia with the annexed Crimean Peninsula.

The strikes, a sudden escalation that showed Moscow retained the capacity to terrorize Ukraine’s civilian population, came after a series of humiliating battlefield setbacks that have piled pressure on the Russian leader.

However, Ukrainian officials said smaller scale attacks had been launched late Friday.

Oleksandr Starukh, the head of the Zaporizhzhia Military Administration, said in post on his Telegram channel that Russian forces fired 10 rockets at the regional center Saturday morning, destroying energy and industrial infrastructure facilities.

His said the strikes came after four Russian drones destroyed buildings and caused fires to break out in the region late Friday.

NBC News was not able to independently verify his claims.

Zaporizhzhia is home to Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, which is currently in the hands of Russia’s military and has come under regular attack.

Both sides have blamed each other for targeting the facility.