WASHINGTON (AP) -- The U.S. will send Ukraine nearly $3 billion in military aid, in a massive new package that will for the first time include several dozen Bradley fighting vehicles, U.S. officials said Thursday, in the Biden administration's latest step to send increasingly lethal and powerful weapons to help Ukraine beat back Russian forces.
European allies also stepped up their weapons commitments. Germany announced it will provide armored personnel carriers and a Patriot missile battery to Ukraine, and France said it will soon hold talks to arrange for the delivery of armored combat vehicles.
All of the announcements, however, fall short of sending heavier battle tanks, which are more complex to use and have a longer-range gun. The Bradley, an armored carrier used to transport troops to combat, is not a tank but is known as a "tank-killer" because of the anti-tank missile it can fire.
The latest U.S. aid -- totaling about $2.85 billion and about 50 Bradleys -- is the largest in a series of packages of military equipment that the Pentagon has pulled from its stockpiles to send to Ukraine. It is aimed at getting as much to the Ukrainian forces as possible during the winter months, before spring sets in and an expected increase in fighting begins.
An announcement is expected Friday, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because details of the package have not been publicly announced.
President Joe Biden and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz confirmed in a joint statement Thursday that the U.S. would provide Bradleys to Ukraine while Germany would provide Marder armored personnel carriers. The statement did not give the number of vehicles or the total cost of the aid package.
"We've had to do everything we can to help the Ukrainians resist Russian aggression, and Russia is not attempting to slow up," Biden said during a meeting with his Cabinet at the White House on Thursday. "The actions they're taking are as barbaric as they were a year ago and they're not letting up at all, at all."
A short time later, in his nightly video address, Zelenskyy thanked the allies.
"Today I would like to personally thank President Biden and Chancellor Scholz for the decision to strengthen our defense, a very important decision," he said. "We will have another Patriot battery and powerful armored vehicles ---this is really a great victory for our state."
The U.S. last month announced it will send Ukraine its first Patriot battery, the most advanced surface-to-air missile system the West has provided for the war effort.
The Bradley fighting vehicle is a medium-armored combat vehicle that can serve as a fortified troop carrier on the battlefield. It has tracks rather than wheels, but is lighter and more agile than a tank. It can carry a crew of three and an additional five or six troops, and is seen as a critical way to move forces safely into battle.
Speaking to reporters Thursday, Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder, the Pentagon press secretary, said the Bradley will provide "both an offensive and a defensive capability to Ukrainians to be able to change the equation on the battlefield."
He said Ukrainian troops will need training on the operation and maintenance of the vehicles. Ryder declined to provide details on the version of Bradley being sent or the timelines for delivery or training.
Also included in the aid package will be HUMVEES, Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles, or MRAPs, and a large amount of missiles and other ammunition, according to the U.S. officials.
The aid comes on the heels of Zelenskyy's dramatic visit to Washington last month, when he slipped secretly out of his war-torn nation for the first time to thank America and predict that 2023 would be a "turning point" in the conflict, now in its 11th month.
In urging more support for his country's war effort, he told Congress, "Your money is not charity," and instead is "an investment in the global security and democracy that we handle in the most responsible way."
Zelenskyy and other Ukrainian officials have pressed Western leaders to provide more advanced weapons, including armored vehicles and the Patriot missile batteries. A $1.85 billion aid package last month, in addition to including a Patriot battery for the first time, provided an undisclosed number of Joint Direct Attack Munitions kits, to modify massive bombs by adding tail fins and precision navigation systems so they can be guided to a target.