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Ukrainian servicemen open the engine doors on their armored vehicle in the Zaporizhzhia region. Alamy Stock Photo
War in Ukraine

Biden to send weapons to Ukraine once Senate approves aid package, Zelenskyy says

The Ukrainian president said Biden also assured him that a coming package of aid would include long-range and artillery capabilities.

US PRESIDENT JOE Biden has told his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelenskyy that the US will send badly-needed air defence weaponry to Ukraine once the Senate approves an aid package that includes $61 billion (€57 billion). 

In a post on social media, Zelenskyy said the US president also assured him that a coming package of aid would include long-range and artillery capabilities.

Ukraine is awaiting US Senate approval after the House of Representatives this weekend approved the $95 billion (€89 billion) package that also includes aid for other allies.

It followed months of delay as some Republican legislators opposed further funding for Ukraine and threatened to oust speaker Mike Johnson if he allowed a vote.

Kyiv badly needs new firepower as Moscow has stepped up its attacks against an outgunned Ukraine. The Senate is expected to vote on the package this week, and Biden has promised to quickly sign it into law.

Zelenskyy said he and Biden also discussed “Russia’s air terror using thousands of missiles, drones and bombs”, including a strike on the Kharkiv TV tower minutes before they spoke.

“Russia clearly signals its intention to make the city uninhabitable,” Zelenskyy said

Russia has exploited air defence shortages in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, to pummel the region’s energy infrastructure and harm its 1.3 million residents.

Some officials and analysts warn it could be a concerted effort by Moscow to shape conditions for a summer offensive to seize the city.

The White House confirmed that Biden had told Zelenskyy “that his administration will quickly provide significant new security assistance packages to meet Ukraine’s urgent battlefield and air defence needs as soon as the Senate passes the national security supplemental and he signs it into law”.

“President Biden also underscored that the US economic assistance will help maintain financial stability, build back critical infrastructure following Russian attacks, and support reform as Ukraine moves forward on the path of Euro-Atlantic integration,” according to the White House.

Meanwhile, a bipartisan delegation of US Congress members met Zelenskyy in Kyiv today.

The Ukrainian leader said they discussed Ukraine’s need for artillery shells, long-range missiles, electronic warfare equipment, unmanned aerial vehicles, combat aviation and support in developing the Ukrainian defence industry.

They also discussed Ukraine’s bid to eventually join Nato, US participation in an international conference in Switzerland in June aimed at charting a path towards peace in Ukraine, and other issues.

TV tower hit for second time

The Kremlin has said the extra US aid will not change the dynamic of the 26-month-old war.

The red-and-white spire of the 240-metre television tower in Kharkiv toppled after local officials reported the latest Russian barrage.

Social media images showed plumes of grey smoke billowing around the large antenna and its upper half collapsing to the ground following an apparent strike.

The tower was last hit in the early days of the invasion launched in February 2022, when Russian ground forces nearly captured the city. Ukrainian officials have warned that Moscow is likely to push hard to gain more ground, including near Kharkiv, in coming weeks.

Russia also announced the capture of Novomykhailivka, a village about 20 kilometres from Vugledar and new territory gained around the strategic town of Chasiv Yar.

The head of Ukrainian military intelligence warned that fighting in the east would likely get much harder in the coming weeks.

“In our opinion, a rather difficult situation awaits us in the near future,” said Kyrylo Budanov, the head of Ukrainian military intelligence.

“But there will be problems starting from mid-May. I am talking about the front in particular,” he told the BBC’s Ukrainian service.

Russia’s holiday target

He said, however, that while the situation would probably worsen, the fighting would not become “catastrophic”.

“Armageddon will not happen,” he said.

Zelenskyy has warned that Russia would try to score battlefield victories before 9 May 9 – a patriotic Russian holiday celebrating the defeat of Nazi Germany – “regardless of its losses”.

A senior aide to the Ukrainian leader, Mykhailo Podolyak, said that the US package had given the war-exhausted country a morale boost and that he hoped the support would soon bring results on the front.

“New supplies of ammunition and equipment will enable the armed forces to repel the Russian offensive, and give our allies time to rethink their strategy,” he said on social media.

Ukrainian officials in eastern and southern Ukraine today reported new casualties in Russian attacks.

One person was killed and one injured in a strike on Kharkiv, while in the southern city of Kherson, officials said Russian shelling wounded two people while the interior ministry said a man was wounded in Selydove, a town in the Donetsk region.

With reporting from Press Association and © AFP 2024

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