President Joe Biden announced additional military aid for Ukraine today totaling about $800 million, matching a drawdown of the same amount last week as Russia concentrates attacks on the eastern Ukrainian region of Donbas.
“We will never fail in our efforts to defend freedom and oppose tyranny,” Biden said from the White House Roosevelt Room.
The announcement came the same day Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed victory in the battle for Mariupol, even as hundreds Ukrainian troops hold out in and around a sprawling steel plant in the city.
The latest infusion of security assistance brings the total U.S. aid to Ukraine during Biden’s presidency to about $4 billion, $3.4 billion of it since Russian President Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24.
The U.S. also will provide $500 million more in financial assistance for Ukraine to sustain critical government operations to help support salaries, pensions and other programs, Biden said.
The military aid includes 72 155mm howitzers, 72 trucks to tow them and 144,000 artillery rounds, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said Thursday.
Biden said not all the U.S. assistance has been advertised.
“Sometimes we will speak softly and carry a large Javelin, because we’re sending a lot of those in as well,” Biden said, taking about surface-to-air Javelin missiles and playing off a famous like from President Theodore Roosevelt.
RUSSIA’S ARSENAL: What weapons are being used in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine?
USA TODAY ON TELEGRAM:Join our new Russia-Ukraine war channel
►The number of refugees fleeing Ukraine has surpassed 5 million and continues to rise, the U.N. refugee agency says. Another 7.7 million have been displaced within the country.
►Britain announced new sanctions on 26 companies and military leaders, including some generals accused of “committing atrocities” on the front lines. Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said the sanction targets “have blood on their hands.
►Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy accused Russia of not taking peace talks seriously, saying Ukraine hasn’t received any documents listing demands.
►In a survey of 27 countries, an Ipsos survey found that 61% of adults think Russia’s invasion of Ukraine poses a significant risk to their country. That number was highest in Japan, where 87% of people surveyed believe the invasion poses a significant threat.
Ukrainians displaced by the war will be allowed to seek temporary refuge in the United States under a new program the Biden administration announced Thursday. Biden has promised the U.S. would accept up to 100,000 Ukrainian refugees. Starting next week, Ukrainians can apply for a streamlined approval process to enter the United States for up to two years under the Uniting for Ukraine program. To qualify, they must have been a resident of Ukraine as of Feb. 11 and have a U.S sponsor. They also will be required to undergo a background check, pass biometric screenings and complete vaccinations and meet other public health requirements.
People who want to sponsor a refugee must undergo background screenings to make sure they are able to support the refugees and won’t exploit or abuse them.
The U.S. will ban Russian ships from U.S. ports in retaliation for the war in Ukraine. No ship that sails under the Russian flag or that is owned or operated by Russian interests will be allowed to dock in a U.S. port or access U.S. shores, Biden said Thursday. Biden said the ban would further deny Russia “the benefits of international economic system that they so enjoyed in the past.”
Earlier this month, the European Union banned Russian vessels and Russian-operated vessels from accessing ports in its 27-nation bloc but provided exemptions for agricultural and food products, humanitarian aid and energy. The United Kingdom and Canada also have banned Russian ships from their ports.
Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed victory in the battle for Mariupol on Thursday and canceled plans to storm the last remaining Ukrainian stronghold in a sprawling steel plant. Putin called the military effort to liberate Mariupol a “success” and urged Ukrainian troops holed up in the Azovstal plant to surrender, promising “decent treatment” for all and medical attention to the wounded. He ordered Russian troops to blockade the plant.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu estimated 2,000 Ukrainian fighters remained inside the Azovstal steel plant.
“There is no need to climb into these catacombs and crawl underground through these industrial facilities,” Putin said. “Block off this industrial area so that a fly cannot fly through.”
Biden, responding to a question from a reporter Thursday, pushed back at Putin’s claims.
“It’s questionable whether he does control Mariupol,” Biden said. “There’s no evidence yet that Mariupol has completely fallen.”
Contributing: The Associated Press