U.S. President Joe Biden released a $61.4 billion request for funding to support Ukraine in its defensive war against Russia. The request includes billions of dollars to replenish the Pentagon’s military equipment to Ukraine, as well as providing economic and security aid and support for refugees in the United States.
“The world is closely watching what Congress does next,” White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters Friday.
It is unclear whether Congress will approve Biden’s sweeping budget request, however, which along with additional funding for Israel and the U.S. border, is pegged at slightly more than $105 billion.
The House of Representatives remains in turmoil with the Republican majority unable to choose a new speaker. Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio, a close ally of former President Donald Trump, has been dropped as a candidate by House Republicans.
Even if House Republicans resolve their internal quagmire, Biden will likely face resistance to his massive budget proposal. He’s hopeful that lumping together several issues — from border security to countering China’s influence to supporting Israel in its fight against Hamas — will foster a political coalition that can move the legislation forward.
In an address to the nation Thursday, Biden made a case for his funding request by declaring that U.S. leadership “holds the world together.”
“History has taught us when terrorists don’t pay a price for their terror, when dictators don’t pay a price for their aggression, they cause more chaos and death and more destruction,” Biden said. “They keep going. And the cost and the threat to America and the world keep rising.”
The U.S president made his case to the American nation by calling the funding “a smart investment that’s going to pay dividends for American security for generations.”
On Friday, Russian foreign ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said Biden’s reference to support for Ukraine and Israel as an “investment,” was cynical.
“They used to call it ‘fighting for freedom and democracy,'” she said. “Now it turns out it is just calculations,” she wrote in a post on the Telegram messaging app.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Friday that Ukrainian forces had repelled a new Russian offensive on the eastern town of Avdiivka and were holding their ground in heavy fighting.
“These days, the Russian losses are really staggering, and it is precisely losses by the occupier that Ukraine needs,” he wrote on the Telegram messaging app.
Zelenskyy gave no further details about the extent of the losses, while Moscow has presented the situation around Avdiivka more favorably for its troops.
Reuters was unable to verify the battlefield situation in the area.
The Ukrainian military said fighting was raging along the front line, with about 90 combat clashes in the past 24 hours. That compares with an average of about 60 daily clashes a week ago.
“It is very difficult. But the boys are holding out and repelled everything,” Vitaliy Barabash, head of the Avdiivka military administration told Ukrainian television.
Avdiivka, home to a large coking plant that processes coal, has long been under attack. It has become a symbol of Ukrainian resistance and is seen as a gateway to the nearby Russian-held city of Donetsk.
The Institute for the Study of War (ISW), a U.S. research group, said Ukrainian forces appeared to have broken through on the eastern bank of the Dnipro River in Kherson.
Ukrainian forces “likely” scored hits on Russian air defense equipment and helicopters earlier this week at the Berdyansk and Luhansk airfields, the British Defense Ministry said Friday in its daily intelligence update on Ukraine.
The ministry’s report said nine helicopters at Berdyansk and five at Luhansk were “likely” destroyed. Ukraine says it used U.S.-provided long-range ATACMS missiles for the first time in the attacks.
If the report about the helicopters is confirmed, the British Defense Ministry said, “it is highly likely these losses will have an impact on Russia’s ability to defend and conduct further offensive activity” in the affected areas. It said Russia also would have difficulty replacing the helicopters.
The loss of the equipment is “likely” placing more pressure on the Russian pilots who are “almost certainly suffering combat exhaustion and maintenance issues due to the unanticipated protracted campaign,” the ministry said.
A United Nations commission of inquiry on Ukraine said Friday it had found additional evidence that Russian forces had committed “indiscriminate attacks” and war crimes in Ukraine, including rape and the deportation of children to Russia.
“The Commission has found new evidence that Russian authorities have committed violations of international human rights and international humanitarian law, and corresponding crimes, in areas that came under their control in Ukraine,” it said in a report submitted to the U.N. General Assembly, listing attacks in the cities of Uman and Kherson, among others.
“The Commission has recently documented attacks that affected civilian objects, such as residential buildings, a railway station, shops, and a warehouse for civilian use, leading to numerous casualties.”
Russia has vehemently denied committing atrocities or targeting civilians in Ukraine.
The commission said it had documented cases of rape “with the use of force or psychological coercion.”
Some information for this report was provided by The Associated Press and Reuters.