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Ukraine war: Biden will send air defence weapons once Senate approves, Zelensky says

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It comes after months of delay as some Republican lawmakers opposed further funding for Ukraine and threatened to oust Speaker Mike Johnson if he allowed a vote to take place.

Part of a television tower partially destroyed by a Russian missile strike in Kharkiv, Ukraine. Photo: Reuters

Kyiv badly needs new firepower as Moscow has stepped up its attacks against an outgunned Ukraine. The Senate is expected to vote on the package this week, and Biden has promised to quickly sign it into law.

Zelensky said he and Biden also discussed “Russia’s air terror using thousands of missiles, drones and bombs” including a strike on the Kharkiv TV tower just minutes before they spoke.

Ukraine, West laud US aid package, as Russia warns of ‘further ruin’

“Russia clearly signals its intention to make the city uninhabitable,” Zelensky said

Russia has exploited air defence shortages in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, to pummel the region’s energy infrastructure and harm its 1.3 million residents.

Some officials and analysts warn it could be a concerted effort by Moscow to shape conditions for a summer offensive to seize the city.

The White House in a statement confirmed that Biden told Zelensky “that his administration will quickly provide significant new security assistance packages to meet Ukraine’s urgent battlefield and air defence needs as soon as the Senate passes the national security supplemental and he signs it into law”.

“President Biden also underscored that the US economic assistance will help maintain financial stability, build back critical infrastructure following Russian attacks, and support reform as Ukraine moves forward on the path of Euro-Atlantic integration,” according to the White House.

Top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer, whose party narrowly controls the chamber, said Saturday “the finish line is now in sight” for the assistance package, and that an agreement had been “locked in” for a vote on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, a bipartisan delegation of US Congress members on Monday met with Zelensky in Kyiv. The delegation included lawmakers Tom Kean Jnr, Nathaniel Moran, Bill Keating and Madeleine Deane.

Kean told reporters “we know that the needs of Ukraine are urgent” and US aid is “crucial to stem the tide of Russia’s assaults”.

Kean said Biden should use the authority in the bill to quickly deliver to Ukraine the weapons that it has requested, including the longer-range Army Tactical Missile System, known as ATACMS.

Zelensky said that he discussed with the US lawmakers Ukraine’s need for artillery shells, long-range missiles, electronic warfare equipment, unmanned aerial vehicles, combat aviation and support in developing the Ukrainian defence industry.

They also discussed Ukraine’s bid to eventually join Nato, US participation in an international conference in Switzerland in June aimed at charting a path toward peace in Ukraine, and other issues.

Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse

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