US House passes crucial aid deal worth $61 billion for Ukraine

Ukrainian President describes US support as ‘vital’, says aid would keep the war from expanding and save thousands of lives

WASHINGTON  -  The House of Representatives has finally approved billions of dollars in new US military aid for Ukraine to help combat Russia’s invasion.

The much-delayed measure had vocal opponents in Congress and it took a fragile bipartisan deal to get the $61bn (£49bn) package through.

Republicans said more than a third would be dedicated to replenishing weapons and ammunition. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky described the US support as “vital”.

The aid would keep the war from expanding and save thousands of lives, he added. It is unclear when the aid will arrive. The package will now go to the Senate, which is expected to pass it within the next few days before President Joe Biden signs it into law.

Alongside replenishing weapons and ammunition systems, Ukraine will also receive more than $9bn (£7.28bn) of economic assistance in the form of “forgivable loans” - ones that do not need to be paid back.

Russian President Vladimir Putin launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. Since then tens of thousands of people, mainly soldiers, have been killed or injured on both sides, and millions of Ukrainians have had to flee their homes.

Ukraine, which relies on Western weapons, desperately needs the aid as it struggles to contain invading Russian troops, who have been making steady advances in recent weeks.

It has meant Ukrainian soldiers are running low on munitions and having to ration artillery shells on a front line more than 1,200km (745 miles) long. Last weekend, the head of Ukraine’s military warned the battlefield situation in the east of the country had “significantly worsened” as Russia intensified its armoured assaults.

Cheers and applause erupted in the House when the measure passed, by 311 votes to 112, with some Representatives waving Ukrainian flags.

Welcoming the result, Mr Biden praised the bipartisan effort to “answer history’s call” and urging the Senate to approve it quickly “so that I can sign it into law and we can quickly send weapons and equipment to Ukraine to meet their urgent battlefield needs”.

Nato Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the significant boost in aid would supplement the tens of billions of assistance being provided to Ukraine by European allies. “Ukraine deserves all the support it can get against Russia,” EU chiefs Ursula von der Leyen and Charles Michel said in a joint statement. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the package would “make the United States of America richer, further ruin Ukraine and result in the deaths of even more Ukrainians”.

Speaking to the BBC World Service’s Newshour programme, Oleksandr Merezhko, head of Ukraine’s foreign affairs committee, described the vote as a “historic decision” that would “definitely save lots of lives of our civilians and our soldiers”. “It gives us strength, it gives us courage and resolve to continue to fight, and I’m sure that the situation at the front will soon change in our favour,” he said. Both Mr Zelensky and head of the CIA William Burns have said that Ukraine will lose the war without American help. That has been reinforced over the past six months by Russia taking more territory, and other Western allies struggling to fill the gap left by Washington.

Ukraine is now feeling the weight of American support once more.

This is not the silver bullet which will help Ukraine win the war, but it extends its window to fight and keep the negotiating table at bay.

 

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