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Biden amps aid, unveils new immigration policy for Ukrainians as war shifts to the Donbas

The infusion of $800 million in new military aid comes as Russia sets its sights on Eastern Ukraine.

WASHINGTON (CN) — President Joe Biden announced a new round of military aid to Ukraine Thursday as Russian forces set their sights on Ukraine's Donbas region, marking a new phase in the nearly two-month invasion.

The $800 million package will supply heavy artillery, drones, long-range weapons and 144,000 rounds of ammunition to Ukrainian forces, the follow-up to another package of the same size Biden authorized earlier this month.

In total, the U.S. has supplied more than $3 billion in aid to Ukraine since Russia's military invaded the former-Soviet republic back in February.

Earlier this week, Russia's military began to assault eastern Ukraine, where Luhansk and Donetsk, two regions of Ukraine that are home to what Moscow alleges are independent republics in need of liberation. This latest move comes after Russian President Vladimir Putin's failed siege on Kyiv, and it could be the battle that decides the future of the war.

"We're in a critical window of time now where they're going to set the stage for the next phase of this war," Biden said. "And the U.S. and our allies and partners are moving as fast as possible to continue to provide Ukraine the forces that they need, the weapons they need."

As the war nears the two-month mark, Biden noted, "Kyiv still stands."

The shift from fighting in Kyiv to a battle in the Donbas region also marks a shift in the physical landscape of the war. The eastern region's open topography brings with it the need for long-range weapons, which the U.S. is working to send to Ukraine.

"We won't always be able to advertise everything that we and our partners are doing to support Ukraine's fight for freedom. But, to modernize Teddy Roosevelt's famous advice, sometimes you have to speak softly and carry a large Javelin. Because we're sending a lot of those," Biden said.

The president also announced $500 million in direct economic assistance to the Ukrainian government, marking a total of $1 billion in economic support over the past two months.

Russia's invasion has been met with vigorous resistance from Ukrainian armies, which have the backing of the American and European militaries and humanitarian aid. Meanwhile, Moscow's economy has taken a beating from Western sanctions targeting Russian exports, particularly natural gas, oil and coal, resources that fuel much of Russia's economy.

Staunch opposition to Russia's brutal attack on Ukraine has mounted in recent weeks as evidence of Russian war crimes grows and world leaders, including Biden, have labeled the war a genocide.

Biden's Thursday announcement marked the last presidential drawdown, the process of using existing stockpiles of weapons rather than buying from manufacturers, unless Congress appropriates more money in the effort to support Ukraine.

"In order to sustain Ukraine for the duration of this fight, next week, I'm going to be sending Congress a supplemental budget request to keep weapons and ammunition flowing without interruption," Biden said.

Along with the latest round of economic and military aid, Biden unveiled a new program known as Uniting for Ukraine, that will lay the foundation for Ukrainian citizens without a visa to flee to the United States under humanitarian parole.

The program is open to Ukrainians who have a sponsor in the U.S., pass screening and vaccination requirements and were residents of Ukraine as of Feb. 11.

U.S. citizens can apply starting April 25 to sponsor Ukrainians participating in the parole program.

"Our unity at home, our unity with our allies and partners and our unity with the Ukrainian people are sending an unmistakable message to Putin," Biden said. "He will never succeed in dominating and occupying all of Ukraine. He will not, that will not happen."

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