Ukraine issued urgent pleas for “weapons, weapons, weapons” Thursday as the U.S. prepared to resurrect a World War II-era program making it easier for the president to provide the embattled nation with desperately needed firepower to repel the Russian invasion.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told the Greek Parliament his country needs anti-aircraft defense systems, artillery systems, munitions and armored vehicles to fend off the Russian military.
“The sooner Ukraine receives this help, the more lives we can save in Ukraine,” Zelenskyy said Thursday.
In Brussels, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba lobbied NATO for help: “I came here today to discuss three most important things: weapons, weapons, and weapons.”
In Washington, Congress was busy resurrecting a World War II-era program to make it easier to funnel weapons to Ukraine. A bill unanimously approved by the Senate and awaiting House action would temporarily waive requirements related to President Joe Biden’s authority to lend or lease weapons or other supplies to Ukraine’s government.
The bill includes requirements that stop loan periods from exceeding five years, allow the U.S. to take back weapons at any time, dictate the receiving party must pay the U.S. back in full and let Congress prohibit some weapon or supplies transfers via the enactment of a joint resolution.
Kuleba tweeted Thursday he is “grateful” for the Senate’s passage of the act and urged the House and president to turn the bill into law swiftly.
►The U.N. General Assembly is voting Thursday on a U.S.-initiated resolution to suspend Russia from the world organization’s leading human rights body over allegations that Russian soldiers killed civilians while retreating from the region around Ukraine’s capital.
►Russia said it made a debt payment in rubles this week, a move that may not be accepted by Russia’s foreign debt holders and could put the country on a path to a historic default.
The U.S. Senate will vote Thursday on banning the importation of oil with Russia and end normal trade relations with the country in response to the atrocities in Ukraine during the monthlong Russian siege. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of war crimes, echoing other U.S. and international officials, urging the Senate to pass the bills to hold the Kremlin accountable for his actions.
The trade suspension bill would allow the United States to enact higher tariffs on Russian imports, while the bill banning Russian oil would codify into law an executive order that President Joe Biden signed.
Both the bills have been stuck in the Senate, frustrating lawmakers who have called to ramp up the U.S. response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Some European countries are weighing whether to ban Russian oil imports, at a heavy economic cost: Russia produces about 40% of the natural gas the European Union uses to heat homes and generate electricity, among other necessities, and about 25% of the oil required to fuel its vehicles.
President Joe Biden said new economic sanctions imposed Wednesday against Russia, including two adult daughters of President Vladimir Putin, “ratchet up the pain” further on Russia following the discovery of atrocities committed by its troops.
“There’s nothing less happening than major war crimes,” Biden said, describing scenes of bodies left in the streets of the Ukrainian town of Bucha including civilians executed with their hands tied behind their backs.
“Responsible nations have to come together to hold these preparators accountable. And together with our allies and our partners, we’re going to keep raising the economic costs and ratchet up the pain for Putin, and further increase Russia’s economic isolation.”
The Biden administration announced sanctions on 21 Kremlin officials and Russian elites in addition to two adult Putin daughters, Maria Vorontsova and Katerina Tikhonova, and the wife and daughter of Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
Other measures include full blocking sanctions on Russia’s largest financial institution, Sberbank, and Russia’s largest private bank, Alfa Bank, as well as a ban on U.S. investment in Russia. European allies took similar actions.
– Joey Garrison
Contributing: Associated Press