President Joe Biden accused Russia of committing “atrocities” in Ukraine and praised the country’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, for a speech delivered to Congress on Wednesday that Biden called “compelling.”
Biden said the United States would send drones as part of its military assistance to Ukraine and that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s forces were targeting civilian areas, contrary to what the Kremlin denies.
A theater housing hundreds of civilians in Mariupol was shelled by Russian forces on Wednesday, according to the city council.
“Putin is causing appalling devastation and horror in Ukraine,” Biden said Wednesday at the White House. “It is awful”.
Zelensky , in a speech addressing Biden by name, urged the United States to close its ports to all Russian goods and to provide Ukraine with fighter jets, something the Biden administration has not yet been willing to facilitate. After showing lawmakers a graphic video of Ukrainian casualties in the war, including children, Zelenskiy addressed Biden directly in English: “Being the leader of the world means being the leader of peace.”
The White House is touting $1 billion in security assistance the United States authorized for Ukraine last week, bringing the total for the past year to $2 billion. Officials point to the United States as the single largest donor of such aid to Ukraine.
Biden signed a $1.5 trillion government funding bill on Tuesday and on Wednesday authorized spending $800 million on security assistance. On Saturday, he signed an additional $200 million for weapons and equipment as part of an interim spending bill.
Still, the assistance falls short of Zelensky’s biggest requests: a no-fly zone over Ukraine or the transfer of fighter jets from NATO countries, neither of which the White House has agreed to.
Zelenskiy on Wednesday urged lawmakers to remember the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, as aid weighs more heavily.
“Russia has turned the Ukrainian sky into a source of death for thousands of people,” Zelenskiy said after a standing ovation from lawmakers.
The Ukrainian leader, who first spoke through an interpreter and then switched to English, continued his calls for a no-fly zone over his country, but added: “If this is too much to ask, we offer an alternative,” emphasizing that the country needs more air defense systems like the S-300.
Previous US assistance included about 600 Stinger anti-aircraft systems, 2,600 Javelin anti-armor systems, an undisclosed number of helicopters and patrol boats, 200 machine guns, 200 grenade launchers and 40 million small arms ammunition, Biden officials said.
NBC reported Tuesday that the Biden administration was considering providing Ukraine with armed drones made in the United States. Ukraine has already used Turkish-made drones to great effect against Russian armored vehicles, according to Western military officials.
The White House is also emphasizing what it is willing to do diplomatically and humanitarianally to show its support for Ukraine, announcing Tuesday that Biden will fly to Brussels next week for an “extraordinary summit” with NATO allies.
He held an event Tuesday, with a crowd of reporters watching, to sign into law the government spending bill that includes a total of $13.6 billion in defense, economic and humanitarian aid for Ukraine.