US to send $1bn in fresh aid to Ukraine, Biden tells Zelenskyy

The assistance package includes coastal defence weapons and advanced rocket systems for the Donbas fight, US president says.

US President Joe Biden has told his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelenskyy that Washington is releasing $1bn in new security assistance to Kyiv amid fierce fighting in eastern Ukraine, the White House said.

In a statement released after the call between the two leaders on Wednesday, Biden reaffirmed his commitment to helping Ukraine against what he called “Russia’s brutal and ongoing war” on the country.

“I informed President Zelenskyy that the United States is providing another $1 billion in security assistance for Ukraine, including additional artillery and coastal defense weapons, as well as ammunition for the artillery and advanced rocket systems that the Ukrainians need to support their defensive operations in the Donbas,” Biden said.

The release of aid comes from the more than $40bn the US has allocated for aid to Ukraine.

The US had previously sent rocket systems to the country while stressing that it will not provide weapons that can reach targets inside Russia.

Russia launched its all-out invasion of Ukraine on February 24 after a months-long standoff that saw Moscow amass troops near the Ukrainian borders as Russian President Vladimir Putin demanded an end to NATO expansion into former Soviet republics.

After its failure to capture the capital, Kyiv, Moscow has scaled back its war objectives, shifting its war efforts to the eastern Donbas region and the southern parts of Ukraine.

In recent weeks, Russian forces have been making slow advances in the area. Russia captured the strategic port city of Mariupol last month, and it is seeking the surrender of Ukrainian fighters remaining in the town of Severodonetsk.

US officials have said they are tailoring their military assistance to Ukraine to the needs of the battlefield in Donbas.

“The bravery, resilience, and determination of the Ukrainian people continues to inspire the world,” Biden said on Wednesday.

 

“And the United States, together with our allies and partners, will not waver in our commitment to the Ukrainian people as they fight for their freedom.”

The US president also announced $225m in humanitarian assistance to Ukrainians. The funds will go to “supplying safe drinking water, critical medical supplies and health care, food, shelter, and cash for families to purchase essential items” inside the country, Biden said.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken also spoke with his Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba on Wednesday.

“The Secretary and Foreign Minister Kuleba discussed steps to expedite the delivery of heavy weaponry to Ukraine and bolster the Ukrainian economy, including efforts to ensure that Ukrainian agricultural products reach international markets,” the US Department of State said in a statement describing the call.

Earlier on Wednesday, US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin called on allies to step up military aid for Ukraine to resist the Russian invasion.

“We must intensify our shared commitment to Ukraine’s self-defence, and we must push ourselves even harder to ensure that Ukraine can defend itself, its citizens and its territory,” Austin said at a meeting in Brussels for dozens of countries backing Ukraine.

In the White House statement, Biden said he discussed Austin’s efforts in Brussels to “coordinate additional international support for the Ukrainian armed forces” with Ukraine’s President Zelenskyy. The White House said the call between the two leaders lasted more than 40 minutes.

The Biden administration has been periodically announcing military aid packages to Ukraine, each worth hundreds of millions of dollars and containing weapons to help Ukrainian forces fend off the invasion in the east.

Earlier this year, the US Congress approved $13.6bn for Ukraine, and last month, lawmakers authorised another $40bn in additional military and humanitarian assistance for the country. The administration has been dispensing Ukraine aid from those funds.

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