Ukraine thanks US on long-awaited aid package, says it will make up for lost time

By Thomson Reuters Apr 24, 2024 | 12:32 PM

By Yuliia Dysa and Tom Balmforth

KYIV (Reuters) – President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said Ukraine would do its best to make up for half a year lost to U.S. congressional debate as he thanked President Joe Biden and Americans for approving a major U.S. aid package for Kyiv on Wednesday.

The Ukrainian leader expressed gratitude in his nightly video address after Biden signed into law the $61 billion aid package for Kyiv, concluding a political deadlock in Congress that lasted six months.

“We completed this half-year path. Regardless of what anyone says, we are gaining the support we need to continue protecting lives from Russian attacks,” he said.

“Now we will do everything possible to make up for the six months that have passed in debate, in doubts,” he said.

Ukraine has been suffering from acute shortages of artillery shells for months with more-numerous, better-equipped Russian forces slowly advancing in the east.

The final arrival of the aid is a huge boost for morale, but it is unclear whether it will be enough to repel mounting Russian battlefield momentum in the east in the coming weeks.

Top Kyiv officials have been warning for weeks that Russia may be planning a big offensive this summer or as early as late May.

With its dwindling stocks of air defence missiles, Russia has been pounding targets in Ukraine, pounding the energy system in particular, prompting rolling blackouts in some regions.

Zelenskiy said Kyiv had been working closely with U.S. officials to work out an incoming $1 billion military package containing “exactly the weapons that our soldiers need”.

He specifically mentioned Army Tactical Missile Systems (ATACMS), artillery, anti-tank weapons and high mobility artillery rocket system (HIMARS) and much-needed air defence.

“I thank all the Americans in the defense industry, every state that produces weapons that now indeed protect democracy and our way of life,” he said.

Biden said earlier he had approved an initial $1 billion in weapons supplies for Ukraine and that the flow of these arms would start within hours.

(Reporting by Yuliia Dysa; Writing by Tom Balmforth; Editing by Alexandra Hudson and Diane Craft)