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Pentagon summons eight biggest arms firms for talks on supplying weapons to Ukraine

PENTAGON officials hosted the eight biggest arms firms in the United States today at a summit aimed at increasing the supply of weapons to Ukraine.

Officials said the meeting would look at preparing for “protracted war” with Russia and “proposals to accelerate production of existing systems and develop new, modernised capabilities,” a reference to US fears that China in particular has edged ahead in the field of “hypersonic” weaponry.

Pentagon experts admitted last November that they were “baffled” by a Chinese weapons test in which a hypersonic glide vehicle fired a missile at five times the speed of sound.

The summit included arms giants Lockheed Martin and Raytheon, which attracted controversy in the run-up to Russia’s February 24 invasion of Ukraine by pointing to tensions between Moscow and Kiev as sales opportunities that would boost investors’ profits.

The US military said that it expected to increase “lethal aid” to Kiev to the order of another $750 million (£575m) on top of $1.7 billion (£1.3bn) delivered since Russia attacked.

Ukraine’s government has described “weapons, weapons, weapons” as its priority request from Nato countries as it seeks to fight off the larger and better equipped Russian military. 

“We urgently need more heavy weapons to prevent further Russian atrocities,” President Volodymyr Zelensky said yesterday, referring to accusations that Russian troops have massacred civilians, which Moscow denies.

US President Joe Biden branded Russia’s behaviour “genocide” on Tuesday, explaining his use of the term — which refers to attempts to wipe out an ethnic group — by saying that Russian President Vladimir “Putin is trying to wipe out the idea of even being a Ukrainian.”

Mr Putin preceded the war by casting doubt on Ukraine’s nationhood, describing it as an “invention” of Russian revolutionary leader Vladimir Lenin, who founded the Soviet Union of which Ukraine was a constituent republic.

The US summit raised fears that Ukraine could become the theatre for a proxy war between Russia and Nato in the long term, with arms shipments substituting for diplomatic efforts to end the conflict.

The presidents of four eastern European countries — Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia — visited Kiev today in a show of support for Ukraine, but they were not joined by German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who said he had been informed that he would not be welcome. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz described the Ukrainian rebuff as “irritating.”

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