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Biden asks Congress to pass $33 billion in Ukrainian aid

The request would be the largest aid package so far as Russia's attack on Ukraine enters its third month.

WASHINGTON (CN) — President Joe Biden urged Congress on Thursday to allocate $33 billion to help Ukraine's military push back against Russia's ongoing invasion of the former Soviet republic, the largest funding request to come from the White House since the invasion began.

The massive proposed aid package comes as the U.S. and European allies seek unified support for Ukraine, and Russia's siege enters a new critical phase in eastern Ukraine where the terrain of the country demands different supplies such as long-range weapons and drones.

Biden's request includes $20 billion in military and security assistance to provide artillery, armored vehicles and anti-armor systems, with $5 billion to transfer weapons from U.S. supplies to Ukraine. It would also provide $8.5 billion in direct economic support to Ukraine and $3 billion in humanitarian aid as global food shortages rise, millions of Ukrainians flee the country and evidence of Russian war crimes targeting civilians continues to mount.

"The cost of this fight is not cheap, but caving to aggression is going to be more costly if we allow it to happen. We either back the Ukrainian people as they defend their country, or we stand by as Russians continue their atrocities and aggression on Ukraine. Every day, every day Ukrainians pay the price and the price they have paid with their lives," Biden said during a speech Thursday. "So, we need to contribute arms, funding, ammunition and economic support to make their courage and sacrifice have purpose."

Congress signed off earlier this month on an approximately $14 billion emergency aid package to Ukraine, but Biden asserted that more aid is necessary to provide long-term security support for Ukraine and to show Russia the U.S. is in it for the long haul.

"Russia is the aggressor and the world must and will hold Russia accountable," Biden said. "As long as the assaults and the atrocities continue, we're going to continue to supply military systems."

Biden also plans to send another policy proposal to Congress that would give the U.S. the authority to liquidate assets seized from Russian oligarchs and send the funds to Ukraine.

The details of the proposed legislation have not been released, but Biden said it would expand American officials' legal authority over sanctioned property by allowing it to be seized and liquidated.

"It is going to create new expedited procedures for forfeiture and seizure of these properties. That's going to ensure that when the oligarchs' assets are sold off, funds can be used directly to remedy the harm Russia caused," Biden said.

Some organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union have warned that such legislation could violate aspects of the Constitution by allowing the government to take property without giving the targets of sanctions the chance to contest the seizure in court.

It's now up to Congress to decide whether either White House request becomes law as lawmakers on the Hill grapple with continued partisan debates about government funding for Covid-19 aid and the future of pandemic-era immigration policies.

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