Biden authorises new $800m package in military aid for Ukraine

President cites 'critical window' to deliver heavy artillery, ammunition and tactical drones

Joe Biden details new military aid for Ukraine

Joe Biden details new military aid for Ukraine
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Citing a "critical window", US President Joe Biden on Thursday authorised a new $800 million package in military aid for Ukraine as the country fights off Russia's invasion.

"This package includes heavy artillery weapons, dozens of howitzers, and 144,000 rounds of ammunition to go with those howitzers. It also includes more tactical drones," Mr Biden said in an address from the White House.

Invoking former president Theodore Roosevelt, Mr Biden said: "Sometimes we will speak softly and carry a large Javelin", in reference to the missiles the US has already provided to Ukraine.

The Pentagon announced the package would include 72 howitzers, 72 vehicles to tow the artillery weapons, more than121 Phoenix Ghost Tactical Unmanned Aerial Systems and additional field equipment and spare parts.

The announcement came as Russia relaunched its campaign to seize territory in eastern Ukraine. Russia has said it is seeking to "liberate" the Donbas region.

"We’re in a critical window now of time where they’re going to set the stage for the next phase of this war,” Mr Biden said. The president added the US and its partners are "moving as fast as possible" to supply Ukraine with equipment to defend itself.

The US has already begun training Ukrainian forces in the use of howitzers, which were included in the previous package.

The announcement comes as other Western nations have stepped up their assistance to Ukraine. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau earlier this week said his country will send heavy artillery to Ukraine, and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte told Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy that the Netherlands will send more heavy weapons, including armoured vehicles.

The president also announced the banning of Russian ships from US borders, further increasing pressure on Moscow's economy. Russian ships have already been banned from ports in Europe.

"This is yet another critical step we're taking in concert with our partners in the European Union, United Kingdom, Canada and further to deny Russia the benefits of international economic system that they so enjoyed in the past," he said.

Before the announcement, Mr Biden hosted Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal at the White House, who became the highest-ranking Ukrainian official to visit the US since the February 24 invasion.

Thursday's $800m package brings the total amount of security assistance to Ukraine to roughly $3.4 billion since the beginning of the invasion, the Pentagon said.

Mr Biden also pledged an additional $500m in economic aid to Ukraine to stabilise their economy and support their communities.

He also called on Congress to authorise further assistance to Ukraine, saying the $13.6bn it approved earlier this year is "almost exhausted".

The supplement request will be sent to Congress next week. Mr Biden said his administration is still deciding how much money he will ask for.

New polling shows that a majority of Americans believe the president has not shown enough strength in response to Russian aggression.

Fifty-four per cent of Americans think Mr Biden's response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is "not tough enough", an AP-NORC poll showed. Thirty-six per cent think his approach has been about right, while 8 per cent say he’s been too tough.

Additional reporting by Joyce Karam and agencies

Updated: April 21, 2022, 4:18 PM