Joe Biden: US will send more weapons to aid Ukraine in defence against Russia

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Joe Biden: Us Will Send More Weapons To Aid Ukraine In Defence Against Russia Joe Biden: Us Will Send More Weapons To Aid Ukraine In Defence Against Russia
Joe Biden, © AP/Press Association Images
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By Lisa Mascaro, AP Congressional Correspondent

President Joe Biden said Wednesday the US is sending more anti-aircraft and anti-tank weapons and drones to Ukraine to assist in its defence against Russia, announcing the help after Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky urged the U.S. and other Western nations to do more in an emotional speech to Congress.

The president’s comments came as he formally announced his administration was sending an additional $800 million in military assistance to Ukraine, making a total of $2 billion in such aid sent to Kyiv since Biden took office more than a year ago. About $1 billion in aid has been sent in just the last week.

Biden said the new assistance includes 800 Stinger anti-aircraft systems, 100 grenade launchers, 20 million rounds of small arms ammunition and grenade launchers and mortar rounds and an unspecified number of drones.

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“We’re going to give Ukraine the arms to fight and defend themselves through all the difficult days ahead,” Biden said.


President Volodymyr Zelensky receives a standing ovation before he speaks to Congress (Sarahbeth Maney/The New York Times via AP, Pool)

Biden spoke hours after Zelensky delivered a video address to members of US Congress in which he made an impassioned plea for the US and West to provide more help to save his young democracy than world leaders have so far pledged to provide.

Zelensky summoned the memory of Pearl Harbour and the September 11 2001 terror attacks in appealing Wednesday to the US Congress to do more to help Ukraine’s fight against Russia, but he acknowledged the no-fly zone he has sought to “close the sky” to airstrikes on his country may not happen.

Livestreamed into the Capitol complex, Zelensky said the US must sanction Russian lawmakers and block imports. But rather than an enforced no-fly zone that the White House has resisted, he instead sought other military aid to stop the Russian assault.

For the first time in a public address to world leaders, he showed a packed auditorium of lawmakers a graphic video of the destruction and devastation his country has suffered in the war, along with heart-breaking scenes of civilian casualties.

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“We need you right now,” Zelensky said. “I call on you to do more.”

Lawmakers gave him a standing ovation, before and after his short remarks, which Zelensky began in Ukrainian through an interpreter but then switched to English in a heartfelt appeal to help end the bloodshed.


 

“I see no sense in life if it cannot stop the deaths,” he said.

Nearing the three-week mark in an ever-escalating war, Zelensky has used the global stage to implore allied leaders to help stop the Russian invasion of his country. The young actor-turned-president often draws from history, giving weight to what have become powerful appearances.

Biden has stopped short of providing a no-fly zone or the transfer of military jets from neighbouring Poland as the US seeks to avoid a direct confrontation with nuclear-armed Russia.

The White House has been weighing giving Ukraine access to US-made Switchblade drones that can fly and strike Russian targets, according to a separate person familiar with the matter who was not authorised to speak publicly. It was not immediately clear if the new drones that Biden said would be delivered to Ukraine include the Switchblades.

Zelensky has emerged as a heroic figure at the centre of what many view as the biggest security threat to Europe since the Second World War. Almost three million refugees have fled Ukraine, the fastest exodus in modern times.

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Wearing his now trademark army green T-shirt, Zelinsky began the remarks to his “American friends” by invoking the destruction the US suffered in 1941 when Japan bombed the naval base at Pearl Harbour in Hawaii, and the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon by militants who commandeered passenger airplanes to crash into the symbols of Western democracy and economy.


Damaged vehicles litter the wrecked streets of Kharkiv after a Russian bombardment (AP Photo/Pavel Dorogoy)

“Remember Pearl Harbour? Remember September 11?” Zelenzky asked. “Our countries experience the same every day right now.”

Biden said he listened to Zelensky’s “significant” speech but did not directly address the Ukrainian’s critique that the US and West could be doing more. The US president said Zelensky’s speech reflected Ukrainian “courage and strength” shown throughout the crisis.

“We are united in our abhorrence of Putin’s depraved onslaught and we’re going to continue to have their backs as they fight for their freedom, their democracy, their very survival.”

Sen. Angus King, the Maine independent. said there was a “collective holding of the breath” in the room during Zelensky’s address.

Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska said, “If you did not look at that video and feel there is an obligation for not only the United States but the free countries of the world to come together in support of Ukraine, you had your eyes closed.”

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Majority Whip Dick Durbin called the address heartbreaking and said, “I’m on board with a blank check on sanctions, just whatever we can do to stop this Russian advance.”

Outside the Capitol, demonstrators held a large sign lawmakers saw as they walked back to their offices. “No Fly Zone=World War 3.”
The Ukrainian president is no stranger to Congress, having played a central role in Donald Trump’s first impeachment.

As president, Trump was accused of withholding security aid to Ukraine as he pressured Zelensky to dig up dirt on political rival Biden. Zelensky spoke on Wednesday from a giant screen to many of the same Republican lawmakers who declined to impeach or convict Trump, but are among the bipartisan groundswell in Congress now clamouring for military aid to Ukraine.

He thanked the American people, saying Ukraine is grateful for the outpouring of support, even as he urged Biden to do more.

“You are the leader of the nation. I wish you be the leader of the world,” he said. “Being the leader of the world means being the leader of peace.”

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