WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden on Thursday announced an additional $800 million in military aid to help Ukraine fight back in its strong but increasingly difficult battle against the Russian invasion, and he warned that Congress will need to approve even more assistance if the U.S. is to keep up its crucial support.
The new military package includes much-needed heavy artillery, 144,000 rounds of ammunition and drones for the escalating battle in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine. It builds on roughly $2.6 billion in military assistance that Biden had previously approved.
The aid, Biden said, will be sent “directly to the front lines of freedom.”
“Putin is banking on us losing interest,” Biden said. The Russian president is betting that “Western unity will crack … and once again we’re going to prove him wrong.”
Putin Declares Victory in Mariupol Without Capturing Steel Plant
KYIV, Ukraine — Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed victory in the battle for Mariupol on Thursday, even as he ordered his troops not to take the risk of storming the giant steel plant where the last Ukrainian defenders in the city were holed up
Instead, he directed his forces to seal off the Azovstal plant “so that not even a fly comes through.”
After nearly two lethal months of bombardment that have largely reduced Mariupol to a smoking ruin, Russian forces appear to control the rest of the southeastern city, including its vital but now badly damaged port. But the Ukrainian troops have stubbornly held out.
Ukraine Raises Possibility of Striking Bridge to Russia
KYIV, Ukraine — A Ukrainian official raised the possibility of a Ukrainian airstrike against the strategically important bridge linking Crimea to the Russian mainland. His statement on Thursday prompted angry denouncements from top Russian political figures.
Oleksiy Danilov, the secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, was asked in an interview with Ukraine’s Radio NV whether Kyiv would be able to hit the $4 billion Kerch bridge, which is Moscow’s only direct road link to the peninsula, in order to stem the flow of military resupplies channeled through it.
“Had we been able to do it, we would have already done it,” Danilov said in response. “If there is a possibility, we will definitely do it.”
He did not clarify whether Kyiv currently has the capability to carry out an attack.
Mariupol Mayor Says Russians Burying Civilians in Mass Graves
The mayor of the besieged port city of Mariupol says Russian troops are burying Ukrainian civilians killed in the conflict in order to cover up “military crimes.”
Mariupol Mayor Vadym Boychenko claimed that the Russians buried hundreds of civilians killed in Manhush outside Mariupol.
Boychenko said that “the bodies started disappearing from the streets of the city,” charging that the Russians were “hiding the trace of their crimes and using mass graves as one of the instruments for that.”
He said that the Russians dug huge trenches near Manhush, 20 kilometers (about 12 miles) west of Mariupol. “They are taking the bodies of the dead residents of Mariupol in trucks and throw them into those trenches.” He said during an online briefing.
“They are hiding their military crimes,” he said.
US Eases Entry for Ukrainian Refugees
WASHINGTON — The Biden administration is making it easier for refugees fleeing Russia’s war on Ukraine to come to the United States from Europe while trying to shut down an informal route through northern Mexico that has emerged in recent weeks.
A program announced Thursday will streamline refugee applications for Ukrainians and others fleeing the fighting. But it will no longer routinely grant entry to those who show up at the U.S.-Mexico border seeking asylum, as thousands have done since the Russian invasion of Ukraine began almost two months ago.
The U.S. says it expects to admit up to 100,000 refugees from Ukraine and about 15,000 have come since the Feb. 24 invasion, mostly through Mexico. Officials said that, starting Monday, that route will no longer be an option except in extreme circumstances.
Ukraine Will Get $500 Million From US to Fund Government
WASHINGTON — A Treasury official says the United States will provide an additional $500 million in financial assistance to Ukraine to help it sustain salaries, pensions, and other government programs.
The official was not authorized to speak publicly ahead of an announcement on Thursday, when Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen is scheduled to meet with Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal, along with Deputy Secretary Wally Adeyemo and Ukrainian Finance Minister Serhiy Marchenko.
The new funding comes on top of $500 million in economic aid that President Joe Biden unveiled in March.
The announcement comes against the backdrop of International Monetary Fund and World Bank spring meetings dominated by conversations over how to manage the spillover from Russia’s war in Ukraine.
Denmark Doubles Funding for Ukrainian Weapons
KYIV, Ukraine — Denmark’s prime minister has announced during a visit to Kyiv that her country will more than double the amount it has given to Ukraine to buy weapons.
Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said Thursday that Denmark will donate 600 million kroner ($87.4 million). Standing alongside Spanish counterpart Pedro Sánchez and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, she called it a “new, significant contribution.”
Frederiksen said the total Danish military contribution is now 1 billion kroner. Denmark also will assist Ukraine in clearing mines in areas under Ukrainian control.
Britain Adds Sanctions Because of Russian ‘Atrocities’
LONDON — Britain’s government has announced new sanctions against leaders in Russia’s army responsible for “committing atrocities on the frontline.”
The Foreign Office said Thursday that it’s targeting several Russian generals and military commanders including Lt. Col. Azatbek Omurbekov. Authorities say the so-called “Butcher of Bucha” commanded forces that occupied the town outside Kyiv where multiple reports of war crimes and civilian killings have surfaced.
Omurbekov and several others were subject to a travel ban and asset freeze. British authorities also said Thursday that they are expanding their sanctions list to individuals and companies that are supporting President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. They include Oleg Belozyorov, CEO of logistics company Russian Railways, and Russian weapons suppliers and manufacturers such as Kalashnikov Concern.