US President Joe Biden has announced $800m in new military aid to Ukraine, pledging to “accelerate” assistance to the country in response to the new phase of Russia’s invasion, which is focused on the eastern Donbas region.
Speaking to reporters on Thursday, Biden also said the United States will provide an additional $500m in direct economic assistance to the Ukrainian government, as well as impose a ban on Russian ships in US ports.
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Thursday’s announcement came eight days after the US revealed a previous $800m military aid package containing artillery systems, artillery ammunition, helicopters, and armoured personnel carriers.
“Today, I’m announcing another $800m to further augment Ukraine’s ability to fight in the east and the Donbas region,” Biden said on Thursday. “This package includes heavy artillery weapons, dozens of howitzers and 144,000 rounds of ammunition to go with those howitzers. It also includes more tactical drones.”
The US president told reporters that Washington has been moving weapons and equipment to Ukraine at “record speed”, crediting the American assistance for helping Ukrainians hold off Russia’s military advances.
The US this week began training a few dozen Ukrainian forces outside the country on the 155mm howitzer cannons included as part of the previous $800m weapons package.
Russia launched its all-out invasion of Ukraine on February 24 after a months-long standoff that saw Moscow amass troops near the Ukrainian borders as Russian President Vladimir Putin demanded an end to NATO expansion into former Soviet republics.
But in recent weeks, Moscow has scaled back its war objectives, shifting its war efforts to the eastern Donbas region after failing to capture the Ukrainian capital. On Thursday, Biden called the battle for Kyiv an “historic victory” for Ukraine.
“It was a victory for freedom, won by the Ukrainian people with unprecedented assistance by the United States and our allies and our partners,” he said. “Now, we have to accelerate that assistance package to help prepare Ukraine for Russia’s offensive that’s going to be more limited in terms of geography but not in terms of brutality.”
Last month, the US Congress approved $13.6bn in aid to Ukraine, but Biden said he will be asking lawmakers for more funds to keep the military assistance to Ukraine “flowing without interruption”.
Biden also reiterated his pledge to hold Putin accountable for the war. The US and its allies have been piling sanctions on the Russian economy, as well as on elites from Putin’s inner circle.
On Thursday, Biden also said the US will ban Russian ships from its ports.
“That means no ship that sails under the Russian flag or that is owned or operated by Russian interests will be allowed to dock in a United States port or access our shores, none,” he told reporters, adding that the move was taken in coordination with Washington’s European allies.
Earlier on Thursday, Putin hailed what he called Russia’s “liberation” of the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol although Ukrainian fighters remained in control of a steel plant in the industrial zone of the city.
Biden said the Russian president’s claim of controlling Mariupol is “questionable”.
“One thing for sure we know about Mariupol: he should allow humanitarian corridors to let people in that steel mill and other places that are buried under rubble to get out,” Biden said.