NATIONAL NEWS

Biden will send Ukraine air defense weapons, artillery once Senate approves, Zelenskyy says

Apr 22, 2024, 10:56 AM

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden told Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Monday the U.S. will send badly needed air defense weaponry once the Senate approves a massive national security aid package that includes $61 billion for Ukraine.

Zelensky said in a posting on X that Biden also assured him that a coming package of aid would also include long-range and artillery capabilities.

Ukraine is awaiting U.S. Senate approval after the House this weekend approved the $95 billion package that also includes aid for other allies. It comes after months of delay as some Republican lawmakers opposed further funding for Ukraine and threatened to oust Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., if he allowed a vote to take place.

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 just minutes before they spoke.

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

Russia has exploited air defense 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 in a statement confirmed that Biden told Zelenskyy “that his administration will quickly provide significant new security assistance packages to meet Ukraine’s urgent battlefield and air defense needs as soon as the Senate passes the national security supplemental and he signs it into law.”

“President Biden also underscored that the U.S. 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 U.S. Congress members on Monday met with Zelenskyy in Kyiv. The delegation included Reps. Tom Kean Jr., R-N.J., Nathaniel Moran, R-Texas, Bill Keating, D-Mass., and Madeleine Deane, D-Pa.

Kean told reporters “we know that the needs of Ukraine are urgent” and U.S. aid is “crucial to stem the tide of Russia’s assaults.”

Kean said Biden should use the authority in the bill to quickly deliver to Ukraine the weapons that it has requested, including longer-range ATACM missiles.

Zelenskyy said that he discussed with the U.S. lawmakers Ukraine’s need for artillery shells, long-range missiles, electronic warfare equipment, unmanned aerial vehicles, combat aviation and support in developing the Ukrainian defense industry.

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

——

AP writer Jill Lawless in Kyiv contributed reporting.

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