US Senate approves $12bn for Ukraine in government funding bill

Joe Biden says US will ‘never, never, never’ recognise Russian claims to Ukrainian territories amid looming annexation.

US Capitol in Washington, DC.
The bill needs to be approved by the US House of Representatives and signed by President Joe Biden before the end of the day on Friday to avoid a government shutdown [File: Joshua Roberts/Reuters]

The United States Senate has passed a short-term government funding bill that provides $12.3bn in aid to Ukraine, as the Biden administration promises to maintain financial support for Kyiv to battle the Russian invasion.

The legislation, passed by a 72-25 Senate vote on Thursday, is expected to be approved in the House of Representatives before making it to President Joe Biden’s desk.

The bill would fund the US government until mid-December, avoiding a looming shutdown before the fiscal year ends at midnight on Friday.

It also authorises the transfer of $3.7bn in US weapons to Ukraine — the latest in a series of substantial Congressional packages that American legislators say aim to bolster Ukraine’s defences against Russia.

In May, Congress approved $40bn in assistance to Ukraine, and earlier this year it allocated $13.6bn for Kyiv to respond to the invasion.

The Biden administration has been dispensing the money through periodic packages of humanitarian and military aid.

Russia launched the invasion of its neighbour in February after a months-long standoff that saw Putin demand an end to NATO expansion into former Soviet republics.

But Moscow’s military campaign has been mired by setbacks. In recent weeks, Ukrainian forces — backed by US weaponry — recaptured large swaths of territory in a counteroffensive in the east of the country.

This week, Russia is preparing to annex four occupied regions in eastern Ukraine after Moscow-installed officials in the territories held widely condemned votes to join Russia.

The US and its allies have denounced the so-called “referendums” and rejected Russia’s annexation plans as a violation of the United Nations charter.

“I want to be very clear about this, [the] United States will never, never, never recognise Russia’s claims on Ukraine sovereign territory,” Biden said on Thursday.

US officials also have promised to impose new sanctions on Russia if it goes through with the annexation.

On Wednesday, the White House said the annexation push has “no legal significance whatsoever”.

Washington also pledged to “impose additional economic costs on Russia and individuals and entities inside and outside of Russia that provide support to this action“.

Aid for Ukraine has so far enjoyed overwhelming bipartisan support in Congress, but a vocal contingency of right-wing legislators has been questioning the assistance ahead of US midterm elections in November.

“Ukraine aid is turning into a monthly subscription cost for the United States,” Republican Congressman Andy Biggs wrote on Twitter earlier this week. “There must be limits and oversight with American taxpayer dollars.”

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies