U.S. President Joe Biden asked Congress Thursday to approve $33 billion (Ksh.3.8 trillion) in additional aid for Ukraine to help it resist invading Russian forces over the next five months.
“Investing in Ukraine’s freedom … is a small price to pay,” Biden said in a White House address. “We’re not attacking Russia; we’re helping Ukraine defend itself.”
Shortly before Biden outlined the plan, the White House said the new spending would include more than $20 billion in new weaponry and military assistance, $8.5 billion in economic aid and $3 billion for humanitarian help for the country that Russia invaded two months ago.
The total is more than twice the $13.6 billion that Congress previously authorized, a total that now has been mostly exhausted with arms shipments to Ukraine in recent weeks.
“Basically, we’re out of money” for more Ukraine aid, Biden said.
The U.S. leader said, however, he is confident a politically divided Congress will continue to support U.S. assistance to Ukraine.
In a direct message to Russian President Vladimir Putin, Biden said, “You will never succeed in dominating Ukraine.”
Biden criticized the Russian leader for cutting off natural gas shipments this week to Poland and Bulgaria, saying the United States and its allies “will not let Russia blackmail its way out of (economic) sanctions” that have been imposed on Russian financial institutions and oligarchs close to Putin.
“Aggression will not win. Threats will not win,” Biden said.
Biden’s new proposal calls for working more closely with international partners to “recover assets linked to foreign corruption,” and extend the amount of time to pursue money laundering prosecutions from five years to 10 years.
A White House statement said the measures would “enhance the United States government’s authority to hold the Russian government and Russian oligarchs accountable for President Putin’s war against Ukraine” – to “seize property linked to Russia’s kleptocracy,” as Biden described it.
As Russia launched new attacks on eastern Ukraine, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres visited the capital Kyiv and nearby suburbs left in shambles by Moscow’s assault. He later met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
“The highest price is paid by civilians,” Guterres said of the war as he toured Borodianka and Irpin, as well as Bucha, where the bodies of civilians were found after Russian forces withdrew from the area one month ago. Those discoveries prompted calls for investigations of possible war crimes, and Guterres on Thursday encouraged Russia to cooperate in probes by the International Criminal Court.
“I fully support the ICC and I appeal to the Russian Federation to accept, to cooperate with the ICC,” Guterres said. “But when we talk about war crimes, we cannot forget that the worst of crimes is war itself.”
“The sooner this war ends, the better – for the sake of Ukraine, Russia, and the world,” Guterres tweeted.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has pushed Finland and Sweden to consider applying to become members of the NATO military alliance, and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said if they do choose to take that step, the process could be completed quickly.
“It is, of course, for Finland and Sweden to decide whether they would like to apply for membership in NATO or not. But if they decide to apply, Finland and Sweden would be welcomed with open arms to NATO,” Stoltenberg told reporters in Brussels.
Russia has expressed opposition to prospective NATO membership for Finland and Sweden, saying if they do join, Russia will deploy nuclear weapons and hypersonic missiles to Kaliningrad, a Russian exclave on the Baltic Sea.
“This is fundamentally about the right of every nation in Europe to decide its own future,” Stoltenberg said. “So, when Russia tries to threaten, to intimidate Finland and Sweden from not applying, it just demonstrates how Russia is not respecting the basic right of every nation to choose its own path.”