US releases $250 million of Ukraine military aid amid standoff in Congress

American weapons and financial assistance have been crucial in helping the pro-Western country battle against Russia

US military personnel stand by a High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, known as Himars, which has been crucial to Ukraine's efforts to repel Russian forces. AFP
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The US government has announced what it said was the final package of weapons available for Ukraine amid a standoff in Congress over further assistance to support Kyiv's battle against Russia's invasion.

"This package provides up to $250 million of arms and equipment under previously directed drawdowns for Ukraine," the State Department said on Wednesday.

It includes "air defence munitions, other air defence system components, additional ammunition for high mobility artillery rocket systems, 155mm and 105mm artillery ammunition, anti-armour munitions, and over 15 million rounds of ammunition", the department added.

President Joe Biden has made backing Ukraine a priority and US weapons and financial assistance have been crucial in helping the pro-Western country battle against a far larger attacking Russian force.

However, right-wing Republicans have led a push to halt the effort, refusing to authorise new budget outlays if the Democrats do not first agree to sweeping, tough new measures against illegal migration over the southern US border.

"It is imperative that Congress act swiftly, as soon as possible, to advance our national security interests by helping Ukraine defend itself and secure its future," the State Department said.

Ukrainian presidential aide Andriy Yermak welcomed the aid.

"Thank you for your help. We will win," he wrote on X.

White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby made clear last week that the upcoming drawdown of US military aid would be the last available, leaving "no more replenishment authority".

"We're going to need Congress to act without delay," he said.

Democrats in the Senate, where they hold a narrow majority, tried unsuccessfully to push Republicans for a last-minute deal before the end-of-year holidays.

Congress reconvenes on January 8.

Even with Senate approval, the deal would have to pass in the House of Representatives where Republicans, dominated by a hard-right faction, hold their own narrow majority.

Updated: December 28, 2023, 7:56 AM