WASHINGTON: US President Joe Biden pledged $800 million in more weaponry for Ukraine on Thursday and said he would ask Congress for more money to help bolster support for the Ukrainian military as it faces a fresh onslaught by Russia on its eastern flank.
Addressing Americans from the White House’s Roosevelt Room, Biden pledged to send heavy artillery, dozens of howitzers, and 144,000 rounds of ammunition, as well as tactical drones, as he called on Congress for supplemental funding to provide additional aid for Kyiv.
Biden also announced $500 million in direct economic assistance to the Ukrainian government as it battles to save the lives of people under siege by Russian forces.
“Were in a critical window now of time where they’re going to set the stage for the next phase of this war, Biden said, referring to Russia’s tactical shift to the east. The United States and allies are moving as fast as possible to provide Ukraine with the equipment and weapons it needs.
Biden said the new assistance will expend most of the remaining funds available for this purpose and that he will make a supplemental funding request to Congress next week. He said the amount is being discussed.
“That’s being decided now. I’m asking the Defence Department to put together a proposal,” he said.
The US House of Representatives will consider the additional aid for Ukraine as soon as next week, Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters. There is strong support among Democrats and Republicans for assisting Ukraine.
So-called ‘Ghost’ drones that are part of a new $800 million US arms package for Ukraine were rapidly developed by the US Air Force for Kyiv and have similar capabilities as armed “Switchblade” drones, the Pentagon said on Thursday.
“This was rapidly developed by the Air Force in response specifically to Ukrainian requirements,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said.
The White House said earlier on Thursday that over 121 Phoenix Ghost Tactical Unmanned Aerial Systems would be provided to Ukraine as part of the new arms package.
The Pentagon said that the new package would include 75 155mm long-range howitzers, 72 tactical vehicles to tow them, and more than 100 Phoenix Ghost drones.
Biden spoke after face-to-face talks with Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal, who is in Washington for a variety of meetings.
The president announced plans to ban Russian-affiliated ships from docking at US ports, as previously reported, further ratcheting up pressure on Moscow. A senior administration official said the move was aimed at further isolating Russia.
Biden also said his administration will allow Ukrainians fleeing Russia’s invasion of their home country to come to the United States temporarily if they have American sponsors, a move that could affect thousands of refugees.
The new arms package is the same size as an $800 million one announced last week Biden said the new weapons are needed as Ukraine battles a major offensive from Russia in the east, where the flatter terrain requires a different set of weaponry.