Ukraine can continue its defensive struggle against Russia with new billions in aid from the USA. A good week after the House of Representatives, the other chamber of Congress, the Senate, passed the package with a volume of almost 40 billion dollars (38 billion euros) with a large majority on Thursday.
$6 billion is earmarked for direct military aid to Ukraine, which was attacked by Russia nearly three months ago. US President Joe Biden has yet to sign the bill.
President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy thanked for the help. In his evening video address, he also made it clear that Ukraine itself loses billions every month in its resistance. “In order to survive the war for freedom, we need quick and sufficient financial support,” he said. Foreign partners of Ukraine should not see aid as a gift. “It’s your contribution to your own safety.”
The last Ukrainian defenders from the embattled Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol spoke up. The foreign ministers of the Council of Europe want to discuss the international efforts to support Ukraine on Friday in Turin, Italy.
Federal Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock is counting on the unity of the Europeans: “We proved this when we jointly decided to exclude Russia from the Council of Europe,” said the Green politician before the meeting.
Fighting between Russian and Ukrainian troops continued, especially in eastern Ukraine in the Donbass. The command of Ukrainian forces in the region reported Thursday that 14 enemy attacks had been repelled. The information could not be verified. As a sign of the intensity of the fighting, numerous civilian deaths were once again recorded. According to the authorities, five people were killed in the Donetsk region alone.
Zelenskyi described the situation in Donbass as “hell”. The army continues to work on the liberation of the Kharkiv region, the President said. “But in Donbass, the occupiers are trying to increase the pressure. There is hell, and that is no exaggeration.”
According to their own statements, the commanders of the last military resistance of Ukraine in Mariupol are still in the Azovstal Steel Plant. Ukrainian media on Thursday circulated a video with the deputy commander of the Azov regiment Svyatoslav Palamar.
“Me and the command are at the Azovstal factory site. There is some operation going on, the details of which I won’t say,” Palamar said. The authenticity of the video could not be verified immediately. According to Russian information, since the beginning of the week 1,730 Ukrainian armed men who had holed up in the bunkers under the steelworks have surrendered. They were taken prisoner of war.
US President Biden welcomed the approval of the billion-euro package as a clear sign to the whole world of how the US felt about Ukraine. Around half of the almost 40 billion dollars goes to the defense sector.
In addition to direct arms deliveries, billions more are to be used to replenish US stockpiles with military equipment that was sent to Ukraine. Other funds are earmarked for humanitarian aid to refugees from Ukraine or to people around the world starving as a result of the war. The US government had previously launched several large packages of support for Ukraine.
EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has proposed linking future reconstruction aid for Ukraine to reforms given the country’s desire to join the EU. “We will have to help finance the reconstruction of Ukraine anyway,” said von der Leyen on Thursday on the ZDF program “maybrit illner”. Then, in her opinion, it makes sense to say: “Yes to investments, but right away with the necessary reforms, for example against corruption or for example for establishing the rule of law.”
The Ukrainian Ambassador in Berlin, Andrij Melnyk, has again accused Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) of being hesitant about the delivery of heavy weapons. “We have the impression that the Chancellor does not want to deliver,” Melnyk told the editorial network Germany (RND). So far, neither Cheetah tanks, nor Leopard 1 or Marder have been delivered, he criticized. The announced exchange of rings with T-72 tanks for the Ukraine from Slovenia has also not worked out so far.
Berlin has meanwhile announced that it will make 15 Leopard 2 tanks available to the Czech Republic in a so-called ring swap in order to offset deliveries of heavy weapons from the NATO partner to Ukraine. “Delivery is scheduled to begin this year and will also include a 30-day supply of 120 mm ammunition,” the Ministry of Defense told the responsible officials in the Bundestag. The letter was presented to the German Press Agency on Friday.
The first trial of a Russian soldier for alleged war crimes continues in Ukraine on Friday. Prosecutors are asking for life imprisonment for the 21-year-old man who allegedly shot and killed a civilian.
At the Council of Europe’s meeting of foreign ministers on Friday, Baerbock announced that Germany and other countries would take over the membership fees that Russia had lost. The work of the human rights organization should not suffer from the exclusion.