Thursday, May 23, 2024

Ukraine war briefing: ‘Thank you America’ says Zelenskiy as aid passes House at last

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  • The US House of Representatives has finally approved more than $61bn worth of military assistance to help Ukraine fight back against Russia. The Senate is set to begin considering the bill on Tuesday, with some preliminary votes that afternoon. Final passage is expected next week, which would clear the way for Joe Biden, the US president, to sign it into law.

  • Immediately after the bill passed, the Ukrainian president, Volodymr Zelenskiy, thanked both the Democrats and Republicans, “and personally Speaker Mike Johnson for the decision that keeps history on the right track … Democracy and freedom will always have global significance and will never fail as long as America helps to protect it. The vital US aid bill passed today by the House will keep the war from expanding, save thousands and thousands of lives, and help both of our nations to become stronger … Thank you, America!”

  • In a bipartisan vote, 210 Democrats and 101 Republicans joined together to support Ukraine, with 112 Republicans – a majority of them – voting against.

  • The Pentagon can get weapons moving to Ukraine quickly once the bill passes the Senate and gets Biden’s signature. Storage sites in Europe and the US already hold some of the munitions and air defence components the Ukrainians desperately need.

  • A US military official told Associated Press that the US would be able to send certain munitions “almost immediately” to Ukraine from European storehouses, including 155mm rounds and other artillery, along with some air defence munitions.

  • In Russia, the Kremlin threatened retaliation over measures in the aid bill to confiscate seized Russian assets and transfer them to Ukraine to fund reconstruction. The Kremlin spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov, said the approval of US security aid to Ukraine would lead to more damage and deaths. Russia, though is the architect of the damage and deaths, having illegally annexed Crimea in 2014, and launched its similarly unprovoked and illegal invasion of Ukraine in February 2022; while Ukraine, an independent and sovereign country, has acted in self-defence.

  • Ukraine attacked eight Russian regions with dozens of long-range strike drones, setting ablaze a fuel depot and hitting three power substations on Saturday, an intelligence source in Kyiv told Reuters. “At least three electrical substations and a fuel storage base were hit, where fires ignited,” the Ukrainian source said, and videos online appeared to confirm this. The source said the facilities were targeted for supporting Russian military industrial production.

  • Vyacheslav Gladkov, the governor of Russia’s Belgorod region which borders Ukraine, said two civilians were killed. A fuel energy facility in the western Smolensk region’s Kardym district was hit, with a reservoir of fuel and oil set on fire, said the local governor.

  • A Russian attack killed a man in Ukraine’s central Dnipropetrovsk region, while artillery strikes on residential buildings in the north-eastern city of Vovchansk left two others dead, officials said. “A direct hit was recorded on a nine-storey residential building. A woman and a man were injured. Both victims are 61 years old. At other addresses, two men aged 50 and 84 died as a result of shelling in the city,” said prosecutors from the Kharkiv region.

  • The US is prepared to act against Chinese companies supporting Russia’s war in Ukraine, a senior US official has said, as Antony Blinken, the US secretary of state, prepares to visit China this week. US officials have given stark warnings about what they say is China’s assistance in retooling and resupplying Russia’s defence industry. “We’re prepared to take steps when we believe necessary against firms that … severely undermine security in both Ukraine and Europe,” the official said, noting that Russia had bolstered its weapons-producing capacity with China’s help. “We will express our intent to have China curtail that support.”

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