President Biden authorized a $350 million defense aid package for Ukraine, the White House announced late Friday, as Washington rushes to send more assistance to the pro-Western government.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a Saturday statement that it was the third drawdown of money from the United States to Ukraine in the past year, totaling more than $1 billion. The secretary of state described the third drawdown as “unprecedented.”
“Ukraine is a sovereign, democratic, and peace-loving nation,” Blinken said. “The United States and Ukraine have been partners since Ukraine declared its independence from the Soviet Union more than 30 years ago.”
He added, “It is another clear signal that the United States stands with the people of Ukraine as they defend their sovereign, courageous, and proud nation.”
Biden directed that the funding designated for Ukraine’s defense be allocated through the Foreign Assistance Act, according to a memorandum published by the White House.
The move comes as outmanned Ukrainian forces are holding on to control of the capital, Kyiv, after resisting an overnight onslaught from the Russians that included explosions and bursts of gunfire. As fighting receded during daylight hours, Kyiv was still in Ukrainian government hands.
With a curfew imposed on Kyiv starting at 5 p.m. local time, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that the fate of the nation is “being decided right now.” He said in a video posted at midday that Ukraine was “successfully repelling” the Russian attacks.
But in an invasion with the apparent goal of regime change, Russia has a substantial advantage in military power. Ukraine’s health minister said Saturday that a total of 198 Ukrainians have been killed in the fighting, up from 137 a day earlier, with more than 1,000 wounded.
Western leaders have said repeatedly that U.S. and NATO troops will not be deployed to Ukraine. But members of the defense alliance, including the United States, have been continuously sending military assistance to Ukraine, including by utilizing ground routes to keep the weapons flowing in, the defense official said.
The United States had already provided about $650 million in defense aid to Ukraine in the past year, including Javelin missiles that were used to destroy Russian tanks this past week, according to the Ukrainian government. The United States had drawn from American weapons stocks last fall and again in December.
On Friday, the White House asked Congress to approve $6.4 billion in new emergency aid for Ukraine, hoping to boost humanitarian assistance to the war-torn country and shore up other allies in the region against any further Russian aggression. Lawmakers are expected to formally debate the proposal when they return to Washington next week.
In addition to sanctions already announced by the United States, the Treasury Department is also considering imposing sanctions against Russia’s central bank, a move that would seek to dramatically ramp up the financial isolation of Russia, according to two people briefed on the discussions. While a final decision has not been made, White House officials are looking to take actions in coordination with their international partners.
Biden recently said that one of his goals was to put so much financial pain on the Kremlin that Russia would rethink its actions based on the growing domestic fallout.
The United States has been joined by several other nations that have pledged to give equipment and funding to the Ukrainian military. The Netherlands is planning to supply 200 Stinger air defense rockets, while Belgium has pledged 3,800 tons of fuel and 2,000 machine guns. Countries such as France and Canada have also given military equipment in support of Ukraine against the Russian forces.