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Ukraine war: US gives Kyiv Iranian ammo seized en route to Houthis

Approximately 1.1 million 7.62mm rounds intended for Yemen's rebels were transferred to the Ukrainian armed forces on Monday
A handout photo released on 22 December 2021 by the US Defense Department shows AK-47 rifles and ammunition seized by the US Navy from a fishing boat in the Gulf (AFP)

The United States said it delivered over a million rounds of ammunition to Ukraine that it had seized from Iran in the Gulf. 

The US Central Command said in a statement that the government transferred approximately 1.1 million 7.62mm rounds to the Ukrainian armed forces on Monday.

It added that the seizure was carried out by US naval forces in December while the ammunition was being transferred from Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps to the Houthi rebels in Yemen.

The transfer itself came after a successful civil forfeiture case pursued by the US Department of Justice to gain ownership of the ammunition on the grounds that it was seized en route to the Houthis in violation of a UN arms embargo.

“With this weapons transfer, the justice department’s forfeiture actions against one authoritarian regime are now directly supporting the Ukrainian people’s fight against another authoritarian regime,” said the US attorney general, Merrick Garland, on Wednesday.

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“We will continue to use every legal authority at our disposal to support Ukraine in their fight for freedom, democracy and the rule of law.”

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The move comes as US lawmakers have become increasingly concerned about the limits of American support for Kyiv as it fights the Russian invasion.

On Tuesday, the Pentagon said the US could continue meeting Ukraine's military needs for a "little bit longer" but that congressional action was required for longer-term aid.

A bill passed over the weekend to avert a US government shutdown was only approved after Republican lawmakers pushed for further aid to Ukraine to be removed.

It remains uncertain exactly how long previously authorised support for Kyiv will last, while approval of additional funding has been further complicated by the removal this week of Kevin McCarthy, the speaker of the US House of Representatives.

The Pentagon said the US government still had authority to withdraw $5.4bn in equipment for Ukraine from US military stocks.

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