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Biden announces US$800M in military aid for Ukraine amid Donbas battle

Click to play video: 'Russia prepares for next phase of Ukraine invasion'
Russia prepares for next phase of Ukraine invasion
WATCH: Russia prepares for next phase of Ukraine invasion – Apr 19, 2022

President Joe Biden on Thursday announced an additional US$800 million in military aid to help Ukraine fight back against the Russian invasion, and he warned that Congress will need to approve additional assistance.

The new military package includes much needed heavy artillery, 144,000 rounds of ammunition, and drones for Ukrainian forces in the escalating battle for the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine. It builds on roughly US$2.6 billion in military assistance that Biden had previously approved.

He also announced that all Russian-affiliated ships would be barred from U.S. ports.

Read more: Ukraine scoffs at Putin’s Mariupol victory claim: ‘The city was, is and remains Ukrainian’

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Biden said that US$13.6 billion approved last month by Congress for military and humanitarian assistance was “almost exhausted.”

“Next week, I’m going to have to be sending to Congress a supplemental budget request to keep weapons and ammunition deployed without interruption,” Biden said. Congress has signaled it is receptive to further requests and has been expecting there would be a need for further help for the Ukrainians.

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Biden did not detail how much additional funding he would request.

Biden spoke on the new assistance, and more broadly about the situation in Ukraine, hours after Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed victory in the strategic city of Mariupol. Putin, however, ordered his troops not to risk more losses by storming the last pocket of Ukrainian resistance in the war’s iconic battleground.

Click to play video: 'Trudeau says Canada ‘very limited’ when it comes to helping Canadians fighting in Ukraine'
Trudeau says Canada ‘very limited’ when it comes to helping Canadians fighting in Ukraine

Russian forces have destroyed much of southeastern port city, which has witnessed some of the fiercest fighting of the war. By Russian estimates, about 2,000 Ukrainian forces remain holed up in a sprawling steel plant, even as Russian forces continue to pound the industrial site and repeatedly issue ultimatums for Ukrainian forces’ surrender.

Russian troops have besieged the port city since the early days of the conflict and largely reduced it to ruins.

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Biden in a brief exchange with reporters following his remarks called Russia’s claim on Mariupol “questionable.”

Click to play video: 'Why Ukraine’s Donbas region matters so much to Putin'
Why Ukraine’s Donbas region matters so much to Putin

Earlier this week, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said his country will send heavy artillery to Ukraine. Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte told Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy that the Netherlands will send more heavy weapons, including armored vehicles.

The new tranche of military assistance is expected to include 72 155mm howitzers, 144,000 artillery rounds, 72 vehicles used to tow to the howitzers onto the battlefield, and over 121 Phoenix Ghost tactical drones, as well as field equipment and spare parts.

The 72 howitzers are in addition to the 18 announced last week the U.S. was transferring to Ukraine.

A senior U.S. defence official said training of Ukrainian personnel on American 155mm howitzers has begun in a European country outside Ukraine.

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Biden on Wednesday lauded U.S. military officials for “exceptional” work arming Ukraine as he gathered the nation’s military brass for their first in-person White House group meeting of his presidency.

Russia’s nearly two-month-old invasion of Ukraine was at the centre of wide-ranging talks with Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin, Deputy Defence Secretary Kathleen Hicks, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and combatant commanders.

Such a gathering was last held in October 2019. Donald Trump was president at the time and was facing a House inquiry that would lead to his first impeachment, which centered on allegations that he withheld military assistance from Ukraine as part of an effort to pressure Zelenskyy to dig up dirt on Biden’s adult son’s business dealings in Ukraine.

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