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US House approves major military aid package for Ukraine

Published April 20, 2024last updated April 21, 2024

The package has been stalled by political infighting and comes amid Kyiv's repeated calls for assistance.

Ukrainian soldiers fire in the direction of Bakhmut as the Russia-Ukraine war continues in Donetsk Oblast
The vote could unlock $61 billion worth of military aid for Ukraine as it continues trying to fend off Russia's invasionImage: Jose Colon/Anadolu/picture alliance

The United States House of Representatives on Saturday approved a bill clearing the way for billions of dollars in funding for Ukraine.

The $61 billion (€57 billion) package, that includes economic assistance and weapons, had been delayed by Republicans for months.

It was passed with a bipartisan majority of 311-to-112 votes. The bill also allows the US to confiscate and sell Russian assets and give the money to Ukraine for reconstruction.

Addressing the issue, Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal wrote on Telegram that the US had shown leadership and resolve in fighting for peace and security, adding: "We will receive an important resource for victory and reconstruction. I call on other countries where Russian assets are held to follow this example."

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said he was grateful to US lawmakers for a decision "that keeps history on the right track."

Zelenskyy thanks US, calls approved aid 'lifesaving'

The bill was part of a foreign aid and arms package valued at $95 billion (€89 billion) that also includes aid for Israel and Taiwan. 

It will head to the Senate next, where passage in the coming days is all but assured as Democrats hold a slight majority in the upper chamber.

US President Joe Biden praised lawmakers from both parties, saying that "at this critical inflection point, they came together to answer history's call."  

"I urge the Senate to quickly send this package to my desk so that I can sign it into law and we can quickly send weapons and equipment to Ukraine to meet their urgent battlefield needs," he added.

US passes Ukraine aid package: Stefan Simons reports

How did the world react to the vote?

Ukraine's Zelenskyy welcomed the vote, saying it would, "save thousands and thousands of lives."

In a statement on X, formerly Twitter, he added: "We hope that bills will be supported in the Senate and sent to President Biden's desk. Thank you, America!"

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg also hailed the US House of Representatives approval of a long-awaited aid package for Ukraine's war effort.

"I welcome that the US House of Representatives has approved a major new package of aid to Ukraine. Ukraine is using the weapons provided by NATO Allies to destroy Russian combat capabilities. This makes us all safer, in Europe and North America," Stoltenberg said on X.

And European Council President Charles Michel said approving aid to Ukraine sends a "clear message" to Russia. "Those who believe in freedom and the UN charter will continue to support Ukraine and its people," he wrote on X.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said it was a day of optimism for Ukraine and European security. "A major hurdle for US aid to Ukraine has been cleared. The hearts of Ukraine's most important supporters are beating in unison again," she wrote on X.

Moscow's reaction was decidedly less enthusiastic, with Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov saying: "The decision to provide aid to Ukraine was expected and predicted. It will further enrich the United States of America and further ruin Ukraine. It will lead to even more dead Ukrainians."

Aid flows back into US economy: DW's William Glucroft

Why was the aid package stalled?

Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson has faced a protracted uphill battle from hardline Republicans over the bill, with continued financing of Ukraine's defensive effort against Russia's invasion hanging in the balance for months.  

The foreign aid legislation is similar to a measure passed by the Senate in February, but it contains some differences designed to win over House conservatives. 

Republicans who opposed the bill had demanded that stronger controls first be put in place to curb the arrival of migrants at the southern US border.

With Republicans holding only a slim majority, Johnson was dependent upon Democratic votes to pass the legislation

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has meanwhile been making desperate attempts to try and shore up support among allies as resources and ammunition stockpiles dwindle.

What does Ukraine urgently need the US aid package for?

Funding for Israel and Taiwan

Around $14 billion has been allocated for Israel as it continues its fight against Palestinian militant group Hamas in Gaza, while around $9 billion would be for providing humanitarian assistance to Gaza and the West Bank.

The bill also covers reimbursement for US military operations in the region in response to recent attacks.

The rest of the funds are set aside for US partners in the Pacific to counter China, with some $3.3 billion allocated toward the development of submarine infrastructure.

The US House of Representatives on Saturday also passed a bill that would force ByteDance, the Chinese parent company of TikTok, to sell the popular video platform or face a nationwide ban in the United States, where it has about 170 million users.

kb,dh/nm,lo (AFP, AP)