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The US House of Representatives approves a crucial $61 billion aid deal

Vaseline 2 months ago

WASHINGTON— The House of Representatives has finally approved billions of dollars in new U.S. military aid to Ukraine to help fight the Russian invasion.

The much-delayed measure had vocal opponents in Congress and required a fragile bipartisan agreement to pass the $61 billion package.

Republicans said more than a third would be spent on replenishing guns and ammunition.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy called US support “critical.”

The aid would prevent the war from spreading and save thousands of lives, he added.

It is unclear when help will arrive. The package now heads to the Senate, which is expected to approve it within days before President Joe Biden signs it into law.

In addition to replenishing weapons and ammunition systems, Ukraine will also receive more than $9 billion in economic aid in the form of “forgivable loans” – loans that do not have to be repaid.

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

Ukraine, which relies on Western weapons, desperately needs the help as it struggles to contain invading Russian forces, which have been steadily advancing in recent weeks.

It has left Ukrainian soldiers running low on ammunition and having to ration artillery shells on a front line more than 1,200 km long.

Over the weekend, the head of Ukraine’s army warned that the battlefield situation in the country’s east had “deteriorated significantly” as Russia intensified its armored attacks.

Cheers and applause erupted in the House of Representatives as the measure passed, with 311 votes in favor to 112 against, with some representatives waving Ukrainian flags.

Biden welcomed the outcome, praising bipartisan efforts to “answer the call of history” and urging the Senate to pass it quickly “so I can sign it into law and we can get guns moving quickly.” and send equipment to Ukraine to meet their urgent battlefield needs.”

The foreign aid package passed Saturday also includes:

• $26.4 billion (£21.34 billion) in military aid to Israel, of which $9.1 billion (£7.36 billion) is for humanitarian aid to Gaza

• $8.1 billion (£6.55 billion) in funding for allies in the Asia-Pacific, including Taiwan, to “counter communist China”.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the significant increase in aid would complement the tens of billions in aid European allies are providing to Ukraine.

“Ukraine deserves all the support it can get against Russia,” EU leaders 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.”

Oleksandr Merezhko, head of Ukraine’s foreign affairs committee, described the vote on BBC World Service’s Newshour program as a “historic decision” that would “certainly save many lives of our citizens and soldiers.”

“It gives us strength, it gives us courage and determination to keep fighting, and I am sure that the situation at the front will soon change in our favor,” he said.

Both Zelensky and CIA chief William Burns have said Ukraine will lose the war without American help.

That has been amplified in the past six months as Russia has taken more and more territory and other Western allies have struggled to fill the gap left by Washington.

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

This is not the panacea that will help Ukraine win the war, but it prolongs the opportunity to fight and keep the negotiating table at bay.

The vote in the House of Representatives was delayed for months by Republicans, with some objecting to sending money abroad instead of addressing the U.S.-Mexico border issue.

Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives Mike Johnson said he wanted to push through the measures even if it would jeopardize his position.

It passed by a comfortable margin on Saturday — but those numbers obscure increasingly sharp party differences on the issue.

While all 210 Democrats voted in favor, more Republicans opposed the legislation than in favor, 112 to 101.

That could spell trouble for Johnson. Three Republicans in the House of Representatives are already calling for him to be removed as chairman. They may even force a vote on the issue next week.

While the billions of dollars in new aid are expected to support the Ukrainian war effort in the coming months, further U.S. support looks increasingly unlikely if Republicans gain more power in Congress — or take back the White House.

In addition, the House of Representatives also approved a bill that would force the China-based owner of social media platform TikTok to either sell its stake or risk a ban in the US. – BBC