April 21 (UPI) — President Joe Biden announced Thursday that the United States is giving $800 million in new military aid to Ukraine, which will included much-needed military equipment and weaponry that Ukrainian leaders have practically been begging for since the Russian invasion began two months ago.
Biden announced the new aid in the Roosevelt Room at the White House. The president has supported Ukraine’s efforts to repel Russian fighters since Moscow launched the invasion on Feb. 24. In the weeks since, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has repeated calls for military help and, at times, chastised allied nations for failing to provide any.
Biden on Thursday renewed vows to stand with “brave and proud people” in Ukraine and said that he’s confident the new military aid will make a difference in resisting advances from Russian President Vladimir Putin’s forces.
“We will never fail in our determination to defend freedom and oppose tyranny,” he said, adding that the new hardware would be sent “directly to the front lines of freedom to the fearless and skilled Ukrainian fighters who are standing in the breech.”
The new aid includes heavy artillery weapons, dozens of howitzers, close to 150,000 rounds of howitzer ammunition and more tactical drones.
The president also announced $500 million in direct economic assistance to the Ukrainian government to stabilize their economy and pay essential workers. He also banned Russian-affiliated ships at U.S. ports.
Combined, the total amount of aid pledge by Biden on Thursday is worth about $1.3 billion.
Biden said that the new aid package is necessary because the billions in U.S. aid authorized last month by Congress is almost gone.
The United States and Western allies have received some criticism from Ukrainian leaders, including Zelensky, for not doing enough to help Ukraine drive the Russian troops out of the country. In his remarks Thursday, Biden said that the Western world has never stopped paying attention.
“Sometimes we will speak softly and carry a large Javelin,” he said.
Biden has often denounced Putin and has blamed him for numerous wrongs — from war crimes to driving up prices for goods around the world. He’s placed part of the blame for rising gas prices in the United States squarely on the Kremlin leader’s shoulders.
Thursday, the president said that Putin continues to underestimate Western resolve.
“Putin is banking on us losing interest,” he said. “Once again, we’re going to prove him wrong.”
Zelensky expressed gratitude for the new assistance after Biden’s announcement.
“I’m grateful to [Biden] and [the American] people for the leadership in supporting the people of Ukraine in the fight against Russian aggression,” he said in a tweet.
“This help is needed today more than ever! It saves the lives of our defenders of democracy and freedom and brings us closer to restoring peace in Ukraine.”
In his speech, Biden said that Putin has failed to achieve “his grand ambitions on the battlefield” in Ukraine and promised to send a supplemental budget request to Congress next week to keep sending weapons and ammunition without interruption. He also said that a new “Unite For Ukraine” program will allow refugees to more easily enter the United States.
“It will provide an expedient channel for secure, legal migration from Europe to the U.S. for Ukrainians who have a U.S. sponsor,” he said.
The president said that going forward, Congress will need to authorize additional U.S. aid to Ukraine.
Biden’s new security package came just hours after Putin attempted to declare victory in the southern Ukrainian city of Mariupol, which is key to Moscow’s overall interests and facilitating military control in the eastern part of the country known as the Donbas.
Ukrainian resistance fighters have been hunkered down at a steel plant in Mariupol and have prevented Russian troops from gaining control of the complex. Putin said on Thursday that Russian troops would not raid the plant because it’s “impractical.”