U.S. lawmakers could vote as soon as Tuesday on a bill authorizing at least $33 billion in military and humanitarian aid for Ukraine.
Ahead of the possible vote in the House of Representatives, President Joe Biden said his administration has “nearly exhausted” his authority to send weapons and other military equipment from Pentagon stockpiles.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin issued a similar appeal in a letter to lawmakers, urging them to act before May 19 when they expect the existing drawdown will run out.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said Monday that while the new measure under consideration “may adjust some in the process,” he is focused on “getting it done quickly.”
Biden signed separate legislation Monday giving him new power to expedite the shipment of military equipment and supplies to Ukraine under a program modeled after a World War II law that originally assisted European countries fighting Nazi Germany
The new measure gives the U.S. leader the authority to reach quick agreements with Ukraine as well as other Eastern European countries for the shipment of the equipment, bypassing some of Washington’s current burdensome bureaucratic rules.
In a rarity for politically divided Washington, Congress overwhelmingly passed the legislation last month in a continuing show of support for the Kyiv government as it battles Russian forces.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in a late Monday address that history will hold Russia responsible for its actions in Ukraine, and that Europe has to consider the price Russia should pay “for bringing the evil of total war to Europe again.”
“And we, Ukrainians, will continue to work toward our defense, our victory and on restoring justice. Today, tomorrow and any other day that is necessary to free Ukraine from the occupiers,” Zelenskyy said.
Putin blames west
Earlier Monday, Russian President Vladimir Putin blamed Western nations for his invasion of Ukraine, saying Russia acted in response to “an absolutely unacceptable threat next to our borders.”
But the longtime Russian leader did not announce any change in Moscow’s military campaign or declare victory, suggesting that his 10-week offensive would continue with attacks on Ukrainian strongholds in the eastern part of the country after Russia failed to topple Zelenskyy or capture the capital Kyiv.
Putin addressed a Red Square military parade in a Victory Day celebration commemorating the defeat of Germany in World War II. He spoke of Russia’s demands for security guarantees, which Russia made in the months ahead of its February 24 invasion even as it repeatedly insisted it had no plans to attack its neighbor.
Weeks ago, U.S. and NATO leaders met with Russian officials multiple times but rejected certain Russian demands, including a pledge that Ukraine would never join NATO.
“NATO countries did not want to listen to us, meaning that they in fact had entirely different plans, and we saw this,” Putin said Monday. “Openly, preparations were under way for another punitive operation in Donbas, the invasion of our historical lands, including Crimea.”
Zelenskyy likens Putin to Hitler
In a rebuke, Zelenskyy likened Putin to Adolf Hitler, saying the Russian leader’s war against Ukraine was “repeating the horrific crimes of Hitler’s regime today.”
Putin drew parallels between the Soviet forces of the Second World War and today’s Russian forces in Ukraine, falsely casting Ukraine as Nazi-controlled, even though Zelenskyy is Jewish. Putin uses that false narrative to characterize the invasion as an operation to “denazify” the country, something Ukrainians see as an effort to destroy their country and culture. Ukraine and its Western allies say Putin launched an unjustified and unprovoked war.
Putin acknowledged the loss of Russian military forces in his Ukraine offensive, saying the death of every soldier was a “grief for all of us” and promised government support for the families of the dead.
Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said there was no rational reason for the war other than Russia’s “sick imperial ambitions.”
“NATO countries were not going to attack Russia,” Podolyak tweeted after the speech. “Ukraine did not plan to attack Crimea. The Russian military is dying, not defending their country, but trying to occupy another.”
NATO reinforced its eastern flank, adding troops and equipment in member states, as Russia massed troops along the Ukrainian border and eventually launched its attack. Individual countries have also sent military equipment and weapons to Ukraine, but NATO leaders have repeatedly said the alliance’s troops and planes would not enter Ukraine.
Some information for this story came from The Associated Press, Agence France-Press and Reuters.