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A residential building destroyed in Mariupol, Ukraine. Picture: ALEXANDER ERMOCHENKO/REUTERS
A residential building destroyed in Mariupol, Ukraine. Picture: ALEXANDER ERMOCHENKO/REUTERS

Washington  — The US Senate overwhelmingly approved nearly $40bn in new aid for Ukraine on Thursday sending the bill to the White House for President Joe Biden to sign into law as Washington races to keep military assistance flowing nearly three months after Russia’s invasion.

The Senate voted 86-11 in favour of the emergency package of military, economic and humanitarian assistance, by far the largest US aid package for Ukraine to date. All 11 no votes were from Republicans.

The strong bipartisan support underscored the desire from legislators — most Republicans as well as Biden’s fellow Democrats — to support Ukraine’s war effort, without sending US troops.

“This is a large package, and it will meet the large needs of the Ukrainian people as they fight for their survival,” Democratic Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer said, urging support for the emergency supplemental spending bill before the vote.

Biden said the spending bill’s passage ensured there will be no lapse in US funding for Ukraine.

“I applaud the Congress for sending a clear bipartisan message to the world that the people of the US stand together with the brave people of Ukraine as they defend their democracy and freedom,” Biden said in a statement, noting that he would announce another package of security assistance on Thursday.

A top aide to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky thanked the Senate and said the money would help ensure the defeat of Russia. “We are moving towards victory confidently and strategically,” Zelensky’s chief of staff Andriy Yermak said in an online post minutes after the vote.

Deadline

The House of Representatives passed the spending bill on May 10, also with every “no” vote from Republicans. It stalled in the Senate after Republican senator Rand Paul refused to allow a quick vote. Biden’s fellow Democrats narrowly control both the House and Senate, but Senate rules require unanimous consent to move quickly to a final vote on most legislation.

Secretary of state Antony Blinken and defense secretary Lloyd Austin had urged legislators to work quickly, telling congressional leaders in a letter that the military had enough funds to send weapons to Kyiv only until Thursday, May 19, so the bill passed just before that deadline.

When Biden signs the supplemental spending bill into law, it will bring the total amount of US aid approved for Ukraine to well over $50bn since the Russian invasion began on February 24.

The package includes $6bn for security assistance, including training, equipment, weapons and support; $8.7bn to replenish stocks of US equipment sent to Ukraine, and $3.9bn for European Command operations.

In addition, it authorises a further $11bn in presidential drawdown authority, which allows Biden to authorise the transfer of articles and services from US stocks without congressional approval in response to an emergency.

And it includes $5bn to address food insecurity globally due to the conflict and nearly $9bn for an economic support fund for Ukraine.

The war has killed thousands of civilians, forced millions of Ukrainians from their homes and reduced cities to rubble. Moscow has little to show for it beyond a strip of territory in the south and marginal gains in the east.

Reuters 

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