President Biden on Saturday signed the bill providing $40 billion in aid to Ukraine as the beleaguered nation ruled out a ceasefire and ceding territory to Russia.
The legislation, which passed the Senate Thursday 86-11, includes $20 billion in military assistance and intelligence support, $8 billion in general economic support, $5 billion to address global food shortages that could result from the collapse of Ukrainian agriculture and more than $1 billion to help refugees.
The package brings the total value of US aid since the start of Russia’s invasion on February 24 to a staggering $54 billion.
Biden signed the bill while attending a state dinner in South Korea after it was delivered to the president under unusual circumstances. A US official took a copy on a commercial flight to Seoul for the president to sign, after Kentucky’s Rand Paul held it in the Senate for a week, according to a White House official.
The signing came a day after Russia’s most significant victory so far in the nearly four-month war, the capture of the port city of Mariupol, and the day Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky marked the third anniversary of his investiture.
“The war will not stop (after any concession). It will just be put on hold for some time,” Zelenskiy’s adviser Mykhailo Podolyak told Reuters. “They will start a new offensive, even bloodier and on a large scale.”
Earlier, Zelensky indicated that he might be willing to cede part of eastern Ukraine to Russia to save the population.
“No one just gives anything away, but there are lands that they entered and occupied, and there are some areas that they have made a lot of progress in,” Zelensky told a news conference. “To get to the line that existed before [February] 24 without unnecessary losses, I think… that would be a victory for our country.”
“We have broken the backbone of one of the strongest armies in the world. We have already done it. Even psychologically. They will not recover in the next few years,” Zelensky said. “But let’s not forget that all our soldiers also want to live.”
Meanwhile, on Saturday, Russia banned 963 more US citizens from entering the country.
The largely symbolic “exclusion list” added most members of Congress, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and Senator John McCain and the deputy director of the US Intelligence Agency. Defense, Melissa Drisko, who died in 2018.
Another recently banned visitor is actor Morgan Freeman, who once appeared in a video criticizing Russia.
They joined a host of other Americans, including Biden, Hillary Clinton and Hunter Biden, who were banned from entering Russia a few weeks after the war.
In a statement, the Russian Foreign Ministry said the listed individuals “incite Russophobia.”
In other developments:
- Russia’s Gazprom also stopped delivering gas to Finland. The closure comes days after Finland and Sweden applied for NATO admission.
- Russia claimed it was cutting fuel deliveries because Finland refused to pay in rubles, which it demanded due to Western sanctions.
- Russian Transport Minister Vitaly Savelyev said that Western sanctions against Russia have “broken practically all” logistics corridors used by the country for trade, TASS reported. Moscow is looking for alternative trade routes, such as one linking India with Central Asian countries, Russia and Europe through Iran, he said.
- Russia continued to hit several cities in the eastern part of the country, including Ukraine’s second largest city, Kharkiv, where the mayor said in a Telegram post that thousands of buildings have been damaged or destroyed, including nearly 170 schools, along with hospitals. and other civil infrastructure. .
- In Sevierodonetsk, which is normally home to around 100,000 people, several thousand people remained to endure a relentless attack, including many elderly who refuse to leave their homes. Some 50 miles west of Sevierodonetsk, the city of Sviatohirsk was also shelled early Saturday morning, destroying a local school built in 2016 with the help of the UN and Japan.
- Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin tweeted that he will host a meeting on Monday of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group, which will include defense representatives from more than 40 countries. Before the meeting, he had a phone call with his Ukrainian counterpart Oleskii Reznikov to discuss the “military requirements” of the country, according to his publication.
- Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, who has opposed Sweden and Finland joining NATO, held phone calls with the leaders of both countries, during which he said he hopes they will take concrete steps to address his concerns about terrorist groups. who find support in Scandinavia.
with post wires