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Biden announces new aid after Zelensky’s emotional plea to Congress

On March 16, President Biden announced an additional $800 million in aid for Ukraine following Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s address to Congress. (Video: The Washington Post, Photo: Demetrius Freeman/The Washington Post)
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President Biden on Wednesday said he will send $800 million more in security assistance to Ukraine and called Russian President Vladimir Putin a “war criminal” for the first time publicly, on the same day Ukraine’s president made an emotional address to U.S. lawmakers.

“We’re going to continue to have their backs as they fight for their freedom and democracy,” Biden said in announcing the new aid, which will include drones and antiaircraft systems.

Zelensky had urged the U.S. to “do more” and called for a “humanitarian no-fly zone” — a measure that has little bipartisan support in Congress and that American officials fear could lead to broader war with a nuclear-armed superpower.

Zelensky showed graphic scenes of civilian casualties as he appealed to Biden to “be the leader of the world.” Ukrainian officials on Wednesday said they were struggling to assess the toll of an airstrike on a theater in the besieged port city of Mariupol, a cultural site where hundreds of residents have recently sought shelter.

Here’s what to know

  • A Ukrainian official says a mayor who was reported abducted last week has been freed from Russian captivity.
  • Russia is considering reinforcement of its troops and supplies in the three-week war in Ukraine, the Pentagon said.
  • Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Wednesday that there is “hope for reaching a compromise” with the Ukrainian delegation in peace talks, echoing comments by Ukrainian officials.
  • Bolshoi ballerina Olga Smirnova, an international ballet star who recently publicly denounced the Russian invasion of Ukraine, has quit the famed Moscow ballet company.
  • The Washington Post has lifted its paywall in Russia and Ukraine, giving readers unlimited digital access to our comprehensive coverage.