US Congressional committee passes bill to boost military support for Ukraine

Bill passed by Senate Foreign Relations Committee authorises up to $300m in annual military aid to Ukraine

Service members of the Ukrainian armed forces fix a motorcycle at fighting positions on the line of separation near the rebel-controlled city of Donetsk, Ukraine April 21, 2021. REUTERS/Serhiy Takhmazov
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The US Senate Foreign Relations Committee unanimously voted on Wednesday to authorise up to $300 million of annual military aid to Ukraine, including lethal assistance, as Washington looks to ratchet up pressure on Russia.

The committee passed the Ukraine Security Partnership Act sponsored by a bipartisan group of senators including Democrat Bob Menendez and Republican Jim Risch.

The bill authorises up to $300m per year of foreign military financing to Ukraine, subject to certifications, including the authority to provide it with lethal military assistance and $4m per year to train its military officers.

Mr Menendez said he spoke with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba before the vote. The two discussed "the massive Russian troop build-up along the eastern border and aggression in the Black Sea and Sea of Azov".

The bill requires a report on US diplomatic support for Ukraine over the next five years, and another from the Department of Defence and State Department on the capability and capacity requirements of Ukraine's armed forces, as well as a plan to supply US security assistance to Ukraine.

It also calls to rapidly send excess hardware to Ukraine, and to encourage partner nations to do the same.

Since 2014 when Russia annexed Crimea, the US has provided more than $1.5 billion in security aid. Last month, the Pentagon announced $125m in aid for Ukraine.

The bill now is on its way to the Senate floor for a full vote.

President Joe Biden's administration recently rolled out sanctions against Russia for its military threat to Ukraine and annexation of Crimea. In the last month, Moscow has amassed more than 100,000 troops along Ukraine's border, according to EU estimates, increasing fears of a possible incursion into the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine.

On Wednesday, Politico reported the White House is weighing requests from the Ukrainian government to send it heavier weaponry, including the possible deployment of Patriot missiles as a means to deter Russia.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee also moved forward on Wednesday the nomination of Victoria Nuland for the position of undersecretary of state for political affairs.