Ukraine downplays uncertainty over US support after funding bill passes with no aid
By Matthew Mpoke Bigg
Ukraine’s government said Sunday it was confident that the United States would continue to support it in its war with Russia, even after the House passed a stopgap spending bill to avert a government shutdown that did not include any additional money for Kyiv.
The White House and leaders of both parties in the Senate had pushed for more Ukraine funding to be included in the bill, which passed late Saturday. Members of both parties said they were confident that further financial commitments would be agreed to, but the failure to do so on Saturday highlighted the decreasing willingness of some Republicans to fund Kyiv’s war effort.
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine made the case for continued U.S. support during a visit to Washington last month, and his office suggested Sunday that it was not unduly concerned.
“All key partners of Ukraine are determined to support our country until its victory in this war,” Andriy Yermak, head of the president’s office, said in a post on the Telegram messaging app, adding that the Ukrainian government meets with both Republicans and Democrats. “The Ukrainian delegation returned from the United States of America with clear confidence that there are no changes in support.”
Although the stopgap bill did not contain additional support for Ukraine, it continues funding at current levels for 45 days and will not immediately affect the pipeline of U.S. military aid. The Pentagon still has the authority to draw about $5.6 billion in arms and equipment from existing stockpiles, and the bill keeps in place a program to send money to Ukraine for purposes including training troops.
President Joe Biden welcomed passage of the stopgap bill, but said Sunday there was “an overwhelming sense of urgency” to secure additional funding for Ukraine, which he promised to deliver.
Biden, who has sought an additional $24 billion for Ukraine — on top of about $113 billion in military, humanitarian and economic aid that Congress has approved — said leaving that money out of the bill had put Ukrainians in danger. “I can’t believe those who voted for supporting Ukraine, an overwhelming majority in the House and Senate, Democratic, Republican, will for purely political reasons let more people die needlessly in Ukraine.”
The Ukrainian government was “actively working with American partners” to ensure that the new budget includes more aid for Ukraine, a spokesperson for Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry, Oleh Nikolenko, said in a statement on Facebook.
“Support for Ukraine remains unwaveringly strong within the U.S. administration, in both parties and chambers of the U.S. Congress, and most importantly, among the American people,” he added.
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy signaled on CBS’s “Face the Nation” on Sunday that he is willing to make a deal to keep military assistance flowing to Ukraine, but that such an agreement would depend on Congress making significant changes to border security, including the way that migrants make asylum claims.
Republicans who support Ukraine make up the majority of GOP members in Congress, and one of them, Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, predicted on “Face the Nation” that senators would draft an assistance proposal with $60 billion or more to assist Kyiv “through the next fighting season.”
Zelenskyy has sought to set the war in a long term perspective, and argued in an address Sunday that Ukraine was at a “crossroads of history.”
“No one should and no one will manage to ‘switch off’ our resilience, endurance, grit and courage on either scheduled or emergency basis,” he said. “They have no ‘expiration date,’ ‘end date,’ or final point after which we would stop resisting and fighting, except for one — our victory.”
On Sunday, a nationwide moment of silence for fallen soldiers was held across the country — a tradition that Zelenskyy said would be observed each year. At 9 a.m. local time, church bells rang and people stopped in the streets of the capital.
Ukraine does not disclose military casualty figures, but U.S. officials said in August that the country had suffered close to 70,000 killed and 100,000 to 120,000 wounded. The toll, which the officials said is dwarfed by Russian losses, has continued to rise as Ukrainian forces wage a counteroffensive to retake land in the south and east of the country.
After months of bloody combat, little ground has changed hands this year and Ukraine has not achieved a decisive breakthrough.
At the same time, Ukraine has intensified attacks on occupied Crimea, which Russia illegally annexed in 2014, in an attempt to disrupt Moscow’s supply lines. Russia’s defense ministry said Sunday that air defenses intercepted two Ukrainian missiles over the occupied peninsula. Falling debris damaged warehouses, but there were no casualties, the Russian state news agency Tass reported, citing the Moscow-appointed governor of Crimea, Sergei Aksyonov. The claim could not be independently confirmed.
Ukraine has also stepped up a campaign of drone attacks on military targets in Russia. Five Ukrainian drones were intercepted Sunday over the city of Smolensk in western Russia, the regional governor, Vasily Anokhin, said on the Telegram messaging app. Another was downed in the Krasnodar region of southern Russia, Tass reported, prompting temporary flight restrictions at Sochi Airport.
Here’s what else is happening:
— Russian shelling killed one person Sunday in the northeastern Kharkiv region, according to Ukraine’s Ministry of Internal Affairs. Separately, Ukraine’s air force said that it had shot down 16 out of 30 exploding drones that Russian forces launched overnight. One person was injured when industrial infrastructure in the central region of Cherkasy was hit and a grain warehouse caught fire, according to officials. Russian attacks also wounded four people in the southern Ukrainian region of Kherson overnight, a spokesperson for the regional military administration, Oleksandr Tolokonnikov, said on national television.
— British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak pushed back on remarks by his defense secretary suggesting that Britain was considering training Ukrainian troops inside Ukraine. Defense Secretary Grant Shapps had raised the possibility in an interview with The Telegraph newspaper. But Sunak on Sunday told Sky News that the idea was “not for the here and now.”