Lawmakers put $40 billion Ukraine aid bill on fast track for approval

Final approval by Congress of a $40 billion Ukraine aid bill appeared to be within days, as top Senate Republicans said on Wednesday they expected Republicans to strongly support the House-passed measure, in a sign of increased bipartisan U.S. efforts to help thwart Russia’s bloody invasion. promise.

“I think there’s going to be a lot of support,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, said of the legislation, which passed the House late Tuesday by a 368-57 margin. “We will deal with it as soon as possible.”

The Senate’s second-largest Republican leader, John Thune of South Dakota, predicted “a big vote here” on the bill, which he and others think could take place on Thursday but could extend until next week. Mr Thune said some Republicans would vote against the bill and use procedural tactics to slow it down if possible, but added, “I think because there’s a lot of forward momentum behind doing this and doing it in a timely manner, I don’t think we’ll have anyone to support it.”

As Russia’s flash acquisition of its smaller neighbor now turns into a bitter war of attrition in eastern and southern Ukraine, a Kremlin official has denounced U.S. plans to increase aid to Kyiv, calling it part of Washington’s proxy war.

Dmitry Medvedev, deputy chairman of the Russian Security Council and former president, said on a messaging app that the aim of the aid was to “hit our country hard and limit its economic development in the world” and political influence”.

The Kremlin leaves open the possibility of annexing the corner of Ukraine it occupied in the early days of the invasion.

Also on Wednesday, Ukraine’s top prosecutor revealed plans for the first war crimes trial of a captured Russian soldier.

Attorney General Iryna Venediktova said her office charged Sgt. Four days into the war, Vadin Shyshimarin, 21, was shot while riding a bicycle in February when he killed an unarmed 62-year-old civilian.

On the economic front, Ukrainian officials shut down a pipeline that transported Russian natural gas from the country to homes and industries in Western Europe. For the first time since the war began, Kyiv has interrupted the westward flow of one of Moscow’s most lucrative exports.

The immediate impact is likely to be limited, in part because Russia can divert gas to another pipeline, and Europe relies on a variety of suppliers.

lightning speed

On Capitol Hill, it took two weeks for lawmakers to receive President Biden’s original $33 billion package, expanding it and pushing it to the brink of passing — lightning for a deeply partisan Congress. similar speed. It reflects a bipartisan consensus that Ukraine’s large military needs more Western help soon, while almost daily reports of atrocities against civilians by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s troops have added to the political pressure.

“We have to act quickly…” said Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York. “We have a moral obligation to stand with our friends in Ukraine.”

The latest legislation would bring U.S. support for the effort to nearly $54 billion, including $13.6 billion approved by Congress in March. That’s about $6 billion more than the U.S. spent on all foreign and military aid in 2019, according to a January report by the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service, which studies lawmakers’ issues.

Washington is growing more confident in its goals and in its willingness to help Ukraine with more advanced weapons. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin recently said the United States wants a “weakened” Russia that cannot quickly restore its ability to attack other countries.

There are reports that U.S. intelligence helped the Ukrainians kill the Russian general and sink the Russian guided-missile cruiser Moskva. The Kremlin’s response was anger.

The measure passed the House with support from every Democrat who voted. About a quarter of Republicans oppose it. The bill would provide $7 billion more than Mr. Biden requested from April, splitting the increased funding equally between defense and humanitarian programs.

The bill would provide Ukraine with military and economic aid, help regional allies, replenish the Pentagon’s arms shipments overseas, and provide $5 billion to address global food shortages caused by the war on Ukraine’s usually booming crop production.

“As Putin desperately accelerates his campaign of terror and brutality in Ukraine, time is of the essence,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Democrat of California.

Some Republicans used the election-season debate to accuse Mr. Biden of being unclear about his goals in the conflict.

“Honestly, shouldn’t we have a plan?” said Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Texas. He said he agreed that Western countries must help Ukraine fight Russia, but added, “Doesn’t the government need to come to us and tell us where we’re going?”

Ukraine’s ambassador to the United States, Oksana Markarova, attended a luncheon between the Democratic and Republican Senate on Tuesday and thanked Ukraine for the support.

The new measures include $6 billion to arm and train Ukrainian troops, $8.7 billion to restore U.S. stockpiles of weapons shipped to Ukraine, and $3.9 billion to deploy U.S. troops to the region.Also providing $8.8 billion in economic support for Ukraine, $4 billion to help Ukraine and its allies buy weapons and equipment, and $900 million to provide housing, education, and other assistance for Ukrainian refugees in the U.S.

fierce battle

On the battlefield, Ukrainian officials said Russian rockets hit an area near Zaporozhye, destroying unspecified infrastructure. There were no immediate reports of casualties. The southeastern city has been a haven for civilians fleeing a Russian siege, the devastated port city of Mariupol.

Its defenders say Russian troops have continued to attack the steel mill that is the last bastion of the Ukrainian resistance in Mariupol. The Azov Corps said on social media that Russian troops carried out 38 airstrikes on the Azov Starr steel plant in 24 hours.

The plant has a network of tunnels and bunkers that sheltered hundreds of Ukrainian troops and civilians during a months-long siege. Dozens of civilians have been evacuated in recent days, but Ukrainian officials said some may still be trapped there.

In remarks late Tuesday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky suggested that Ukrainian forces are gradually withdrawing Russian troops from the country’s second-largest city, Kharkiv, and from key areas of Russia’s offensive in Donbass, which the Kremlin says has seized eastern industry District is its main target. objective.

Ukraine has also targeted Russian air defense and supply ships on Serpent Island in the Black Sea in a bid to undermine Moscow’s efforts to expand control of the coastline, according to the British Ministry of Defence.

In the southern region of Kherson, Ukraine’s first major city to fall in the war, a Kremlin-backed local leader said officials there wanted Putin to make Kherson a “proper area” for Russia — That is, swallow it.

Copyright © 2022 The Washington Times, LLC.

Source link