President Joe Biden on Thursday announced an $800 million package of security assistance to Ukraine to “further augment” its ability to fend off Russia’s new offensive in the southeastern Donbas region.
The package will include heavy artillery weapons, tactical drones and dozens of howitzers, as well as 144,000 rounds of ammunition for those howitzers, Biden said in a speech at the White House.
The package includes a new drone made specifically for Ukraine. The Air Force and AEVEX Aerospace, a firm that has done business with U.S. Special Operations Command, rapidly developed the weapon, a senior Defense Department official said.
The drone, known as the Phoenix Ghost, will require “minimal training,” the official said. The official likened it to the Switchblade drones that the United States previously sent to Ukraine because they are “one-way” weapons, suggesting that the new drone may be a loitering weapon that flies to a target and detonates an explosive warhead, although the official did not offer clarity on that specific point.
With the new package, Biden acknowledged he had “almost exhausted the drawdown authority” authorized by Congress for Ukraine in a bipartisan spending bill last month.
Biden said he would send a supplemental budget request to lawmakers next week “to keep weapons and ammunition flowing without interruption to the brave Ukrainian fighters and to continue to deliver economic assistance to the Ukrainian people.”
Asked how big that budget request would be, Biden said he had directed the Pentagon to recommend its size.
Biden also announced an additional $500 million in direct economic assistance to the Ukrainian government, bringing the total U.S. economic support for Ukraine to $1 billion over the last two months.
Biden previewed that a new package of security assistance was forthcoming on Tuesday, when he told reporters that he would authorize the delivery of more artillery to Ukraine.
The actions announced on Thursday are the latest taken by the Biden administration since the start of the Russian assault in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region this week.
On Wednesday, the Treasury Department leveled new sanctions against a Russian commercial bank, a Russian oligarch and his network, and Russia’s virtual-currency mining industry.
The administration has already rolled out several rounds of assistance to Ukraine, as Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of the country has dragged on for 57 days, and Ukrainian forces have remained largely successful in repelling the Russian invaders.
Following Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s impassioned address to Congress last month, the administration announced $800 million in security assistance to Ukraine. When Biden traveled to Europe the next week, he announced $1 billion in humanitarian assistance.
Biden also told Zelenskyy in a call last month that the United States would provide Ukraine with an additional $500 million in budgetary aid, and the White House’s budget plan includes $682 million to help Ukraine fight Russia.
In other actions on Thursday, Biden announced a new humanitarian parole program to help streamline the processing of Ukrainian refugees in the United States. He also announced a ban on Russian-affiliated ships from U.S. ports, mirroring a similar moratorium in Europe.
Lee Hudson contributed to this report.
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