May 19, 2023 - Russia-Ukraine news

By Tara Subramaniam, Christian Edwards, Leinz Vales, Matt Meyer, Elise Hammond and Tori B. Powell, CNN

Updated 0357 GMT (1157 HKT) May 20, 2023
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9:25 p.m. ET, May 18, 2023

Accounting error frees up $3 billion for Ukraine weapons assistance

From CNN's Kylie Atwood, Oren Liebermann and Natasha Bertrand

The Biden administration made an accounting error in assessing the value of the military support that the US has given to Ukraine to date, freeing up approximately $3 billion more in aid, an amount likely to mitigate the need for Congress to pass an additional assistance package before the end of the fiscal year in September, multiple congressional and administration officials told CNN.

The error — which lawmakers and congressional staffers were briefed on Thursday — triggered frustration from Republicans on the House Foreign Affairs and Armed Services committees. They believe the mistake reduced the amount of US support that went to Ukraine leading up to the counteroffensive.

“The revelation of a three-billion-dollar accounting error discovered two months ago and only today shared with Congress is extremely problematic, to say the least. These funds could have been used for extra supplies and weapons for the upcoming counteroffensive, instead of rationing funds to last for the remainder of the fiscal year,” wrote House Foreign Affairs Chairman Michael McCaul and House Armed Services Chairman Mike Rogers in a statement Thursday.

Before this new information came to light the Pentagon had said that there was just over $2.3 billion remaining available for Presidential Drawdown Authority for Ukraine. Now, due to this revelation, there is about $5.3 billion still available, far more than even the largest single package provided to Ukraine.

The briefing to the Hill comes after the White House told CNN that it is not currently planning to ask Congress for new Ukraine funding before the end of the fiscal year at the end of September, which pit administration officials against some lawmakers and congressional staffers who are concerned that the funds could run out by mid-summer.

But now that there is more funding available, congressional sources said they are less concerned about the immediate need for a new funding package for Ukraine. They believe it is likely that the newfound funding will carry the US support to Ukraine through the end of the summer.

What happened: The accounting error occurred because when the US transferred weaponry to Ukraine, they counted the value of replacing the weapon instead of the value of actual weapon, defense officials explained. That drove up the cost of each package — because new weaponry costs more than old weaponry— and resulted in the false assumption that more of the funding had been used.

Read more here.

8:13 p.m. ET, May 18, 2023

US signals to allies that it won't block them from exporting F-16 jets to Ukraine

From CNN's Natasha Bertrand, Kylie Atwood and Oren Liebermann

The Biden administration has signaled to European allies in recent weeks that the US would allow them to export F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine, sources familiar with the discussions said, as the White House comes under increasing pressure from members of Congress and allies to help Ukraine procure the planes amid intensifying Russian aerial attacks.

Administration officials are not aware, however, of any formal requests by any allies to export F-16s, and State Department officials who would normally be tasked with the paperwork to approve such third-party transfers have not been told to get to work, officials said.

A handful of European countries have a supply of the US-made F-16s, including the Netherlands, which has signaled a willingness to export some of them to Ukraine. But the US would have to approve that third party transfer because of the jets’ sensitive US technology.

While the US remains reluctant to send any of its own F-16s to Kyiv, US officials told CNN that the administration is prepared to approve the export of the jets to Ukraine if that is what allies decide to do with their supply.

Read more here.

8:11 p.m. ET, May 18, 2023

Ukraine has "successfully" used UK-provided Storm Shadow missiles, British defense minister says

From CNN's Haley Britzky

Ukraine has “successfully” used the Storm Shadow missiles provided by the United Kingdom, British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace told CNN on Thursday.

“All I can confirm is it has been used successfully, that is the information I received from the Ukrainians, and I’m pleased it is helping them to defend their country,” Wallace told CNN’s Jim Sciutto in an exclusive interview on “News Central.”

The Storm Shadow missiles, the longest-range weapon in Ukraine’s arsenal, were recently given to Kyiv ahead of an anticipated counteroffensive against the Russian military. The long-range cruise missile has stealth capabilities and a firing range of more than 250 kilometers, or 155 miles.

Read more here.

8:05 p.m. ET, May 18, 2023

Patriot missile battery damaged in Ukraine is now repaired, Pentagon says

From CNN's Michael Conte

A Patriot missile battery damaged by a Russian missile barrage against Kyiv has been fixed, the Pentagon said Thursday.

“One Patriot system was damaged, but it has now been fixed and is fully back and operational,” said Pentagon deputy press secretary Sabrina Singh.

CNN reported on Wednesday that the damage was minimal. 

8:04 p.m. ET, May 18, 2023

Analysis: Confusion around Ukraine's counteroffensive may all be part of the plan

Analysis from CNN's Nick Paton Walsh in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine

The columns of dozens of US-supplied M-ATVs kept coming, preceded by a police car, lights blaring, and tailed by dozens of muddy, civilian saloons. Where the armored vehicles were ultimately destined for was unclear. But they were still beige — the paintjob they would have had for use in Iraq and Afghanistan — suggesting they were at least a spray can or mud-shower away from being ready for use on the front line.

Over five weeks reporting along the southern frontlines, it became hard to conceive that — at least in its limited, preparatory stages — Ukraine’s counteroffensive had not got under way in late April.

The relentless pinpoint bombing of Russian military targets; the hints of small Ukrainian landings along the occupied eastern bank of the Dnipro River; and the blasts hitting fuel depots and infrastructure inside Russia’s own borders and in occupied cities — these could all be seen as indicators.

Also, too, a helicopter attack we witnessed against a Russian target; the persistent signals from occupied officials of Ukrainian probing attacks along the Zaporizhzhia frontline; and the evacuation of the civilian population in occupied areas.

The signs have gathered in pace over the past month, and are the opening traces of the “shaping operations” that a senior US official told CNN began last week. Yet officially, Ukraine’s counteroffensive has yet to start.

Given the volume of US and NATO hardware, advice and training poured into this operation — with a senior US official recently telling Congress the US had coached Kyiv in how to “surprise” — it seems fair to assume this delay in declaring the start of the assault is a tactic, not the product of Ukrainian chaos, disorganization, and a relatively wet April leaving the ground too soft.

Read the full analysis here.