Biden to detail Ukraine aid after direct appeal from Zelenskiy
President Joe Biden will outline US assistance to Ukraine on Wednesday, following an emotional appeal from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy for Biden to lead the world in punishing Moscow for its invasion.
Zelenskiy pleaded with the US in a speech to Congress to vastly expand the economic consequences for Russia’s invasion, including by closing its ports to all Russian goods and providing Ukraine with fighter jets. After showing lawmakers a graphic video of Ukrainian casualties in the war, including children, Zelenskiy addressed Biden directly in English: “Being the leader of the world means to be the leader of peace.”
The White House is touting $1 billion in security assistance the US has authorised for Ukraine in the past week, bringing the total for the last year to $2 billion. Officials note that the US is the largest single donor of such aid to Ukraine.
Biden on Tuesday signed a $1.5 trillion government funding bill, and on Wednesday authorized spending $800 million on security assistance. On Saturday, he signed off an additional $200 million for arms and equipment as part of a stopgap spending bill.
Still, the assistance falls short of Zelenskiy’s biggest requests - a no-fly zone over Ukraine or the transfer of fighter jets from NATO countries --neither of which the White House has agreed to.
Zelenskiy on Wednesday urged lawmakers to remember the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the 11 September 2001, terrorist attacks in New York and Washington as it weighs more aid.
“Russia has turned the Ukrainian sky into a source of death for thousands of people,” Zelenskiy said following a standing ovation from lawmakers.
The Ukrainian leader, who at first spoke through an interpreter and then later switched to English, continued his calls for a no-fly zone over his country but added, “If this is too much to ask, we offer an alternative,” stressing that the country needs more air defence systems like the S-300.
The previous US assistance included about 600 Stinger antiaircraft systems, 2,600 Javelin anti-armour systems, an undisclosed number of helicopters and patrol boats, 200 machine guns, 200 grenade launchers, and 40 million rounds of small-arms ammunition, Biden officials said.
NBC reported Tuesday that the Biden administration was considering providing Ukraine with U.S.-made armed drones. Ukraine has already used Turkish-made drones to great effect against Russian armoured vehicles, according to Western military officials.
The White House also is stressing what it is willing to do diplomatically and on a humanitarian basis to demonstrate support for Ukraine, announcing Tuesday that Biden will fly to Brussels next week for “extraordinary summit” with NATO allies. And he held an event Tuesday -- with a crowd of reporters watching -- to sign into law the government spending bill that includes a total of $13.6 billion in humanitarian, economic and defence aid for Ukraine.
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