US secretary of defense Lloyd Austin (Anadolu)

ANKARA – Russia's war in Ukraine is "at another key moment," the US secretary of defense said Thursday, encouraging allies to "sustain Ukraine's brave defenders for the long haul."

"Today, four months after our initial contact group meeting, the war is another key moment. Russian forces continue to cruelly bombard Ukrainian cities and civilians with missiles and artillery fire, but Ukrainian forces have begun their counter-offensive in the south of their country," Lloyd Austin said in his opening speech at the fifth Ukraine Defense Contact Group meeting in Ramstein, Germany.

"And they're integrating the capabilities that we all have provided to help themselves fight and reclaim their sovereign territory. So it's fitting that we're meeting back here at Ramstein," he added.

He said the contact group was established to meet Ukraine's "most urgent needs," and it "needs to position itself to sustain Ukraine's brave defenders for the long haul."

"And that means a continued and determined flow of capability now. It means moving urgently to innovate and to push all of our defense, industrial bases to provide Ukraine with the tools that it will need for the hard road ahead," he said. "And it means renewing and deepening our resolve to stand by Ukraine."

"We're here because we refuse to live in a world where big powers trampled borders by force," he said.

He said the face of the war is changing, and so is the mission of the contact group.

Austin said they will work together to train Ukraine's forces, help integrate Ukraine's capabilities and bolster its joint operations, upgrade their defense industrial bases to meet Kyiv's requirements and for the production and innovation to meet Ukraine's self-defense needs.

He also recalled the US' commitment to send USD6.3 billion in security assistance to Ukraine during last month's group meeting.

Austin added that President Joe Biden approved on Wednesday the latest tranche of US assistance to Ukraine valued up to USD675 million. (Anadolu)