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Ukrainian and Western leaders laud U.S. aid package while the Kremlin warns of ‘further ruin’

KYIV, Ukraine –

Ukrainian and Western leaders welcomed a desperately needed aid package passed by the U.S. House of Representatives, as the Kremlin warned the passage of the bill would “further ruin” Ukraine and cause more deaths.

The House swiftly approved US$95 billion in foreign aid for Ukraine, Israel and other U.S. allies in a rare Saturday session as Democrats and Republicans banded together after months of hard-right resistance over renewed American support for repelling Russia’s invasion.

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who had warned that his country would lose the war without U.S. funding, said that he was grateful for the decision of U.S. lawmakers.

“We appreciate every sign of support for our country and its independence, people and way of life, which Russia is attempting to bury under the rubble,” he wrote on social media site X.

“America has demonstrated its leadership since the first days of this war. Exactly this type of leadership is required to maintain a rules-based international order and predictability for all nations,” he said.

The Ukrainian president noted that his country’s “warriors on the front lines” would feel the benefit of the aid package.

One such “warrior” is infantry soldier Oleksandr, fighting around Avdiivka, the city in the Donetsk region that Ukraine lost to Russia in February after months of intense combat.

“For us it’s so important to have this support from the U.S. and our partners,” Oleksandr told The Associated Press. He did not give his full name for security reasons.

“With this we can stop them and reduce our losses. It’s the first step to have the possibility to liberate our territory.”

Ammunition shortages linked to the aid holdup over the past six months have led Ukrainian military commanders to ration shells, a disadvantage that Russia seized on this year — taking the city of Avdiivka and currently inching towards the town of Chasiv Yar, also in the Donetsk region.

“The Russians come at us in waves — we become exhausted, we have to leave our positions. This is repeated many times,” Oleksandr said. “Not having enough ammunition means we can’t cover the area that is our responsibility to hold when they are assaulting us.”

In Kyiv, civilians shared their views on the U.S. aid package.

“I heard our president officially say that we can lose the war without this help. Thanks very much and yesterday was a great event,” said Kateryna Ruda, 43.

Tatyana Ryavchenuk, the wife of a Ukrainian soldier, noted the need for more weapons, lamenting that soldiers “have nothing to protect us.”

“They need weapons, they need gear, they need it. We always need help. Because without help, our enemy can advance further and can be in the center of our city,” the 26-year-old said.

Other Western leaders also lauded the aid package.

“Ukraine is using the weapons provided by NATO Allies to destroy Russian combat capabilities. This makes us all safer, in Europe & North America,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg wrote on X.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said that “Ukraine deserves all the support it can get against Russia.”

Her statement was echoed by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who called it “a strong signal in these times.”

“We stand with the Ukrainians fighting for their free, democratic and independent country,” Scholz posted on X.

Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk thanked House Speaker Mike Johnson, while also noting the holdup in Congress. “Better late than too late. And I hope it is not too late for Ukraine,” he wrote on X.

In Russia, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov called the approval of aid to Ukraine “expected and predictable.”

The decision “will make the United States of America richer, further ruin Ukraine and result in the deaths of even more Ukrainians, the fault of the Kyiv regime,” Peskov was quoted as saying by Russian news agency Ria Novosti.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova also took to social media to speak against the aid package.

“The allocation of military assistance by the United States to Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan will aggravate the global crisis: military assistance to the Kyiv regime is direct sponsorship of terrorist activities,” she wrote on Telegram.

“The new aid package will not save, but, on the contrary, will kill thousands and thousands more people, prolong the conflict, and bring even more grief and devastation,” Leonid Slutsky, head of the Russian State Duma Committee on International Affairs, wrote on Telegram.

The whole aid package will go to the U.S. Senate, which could pass it as soon as Tuesday. President Joe Biden has promised to sign it immediately.

In its latest assessment, a Washington-based think tank said that the logistics of getting U.S. assistance to the front line would likely mean that its effect would not be felt for several weeks.

“Ukrainian forces may suffer additional setbacks in the coming weeks while waiting for U.S. security assistance that will allow Ukraine to stabilize the front,” the Institute for the Study of War said.

“But they will likely be able to blunt the current Russian offensive assuming the resumed U.S. assistance arrives promptly.”

On the ground, Russia’s Defence Ministry said Sunday that its troops had taken control of the village of Bohdanivka in the Donetsk region. Ukrainian officials have not yet commented on the claim.

One person was killed and four other people wounded in Russian shelling in Ukrainsk, according to the prosecutor’s office in Ukraine’s partially occupied Donetsk region.

Morton reported from London.

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