Biden speaks with Zelensky, unveils $625 million weapons package to Ukraine

President Biden and Vice President Harris spoke with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Tuesday and unveiled a $625 million security assistance package to Ukraine amid Russia’s annexation of regions in the eastern and southern parts of the country.

Biden and Harris underscored that the U.S. “will never recognize Russia’s purported annexation of Ukrainian territory,” according to a White House readout of the conversation.

“President Biden pledged to continue supporting Ukraine as it defends itself from Russian aggression for as long as it takes, including the provision today of a new $625 million security assistance package that includes additional weapons and equipment, including [High Mobility Rocket Artillery Systems], artillery systems and ammunition, and armored vehicles,” the readout continued.

The meeting comes as the West continues to grapple with the fallout of Russia moving to annex the Luhansk, Kherson, Donetsk and Zaporizhzhia regions of Ukraine after holding referendums largely decried as shams. National security adviser Jake Sullivan met with Andriy Yermak, head of the office of Ukraine’s president, in Istanbul on Sunday, during which Sullivan said there would be ”severe costs” for anyone who supported Russia’s annexation.

During the conversation with Zelensky, Biden also affirmed the U.S.’s “continued readiness” to impose sanctions on any entity that supports Russia’s annexation, and welcomed an agreement that allowed the safe export of grain from Ukraine, the White House said.

The president also spoke of the U.S.’s efforts to “rally the world behind Ukraine’s efforts to defend its freedom and democracy, as enshrined in the United Nations Charter,” the statement added.

The U.S. has committed now committed more than $17.5 billion in aid to Ukraine since the beginning of the Biden administration, including $16.8 billion since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a separate statement.

Tuesday’s weapons package will be the second under presidential drawdown authority, and includes four High Mobility Rocket Artillery Systems, 16 155 mm howitzers, 16 105 mm howitzers, 75,000 155mm artillery rounds, 500 precision-guided 155mm artillery rounds and 1,000 155mm rounds of Remote Anti-Armor Mine Systems, among other equipment.

“Recent developments from Russia’s sham referenda and attempted annexation to new revelations of brutality against civilians in Ukrainian territory formerly controlled by Russia only strengthens our resolve. United with our Allies and partners from 50 nations, we are delivering the arms and equipment that Ukraine’s forces are utilizing so effectively today in a successful counter-offensive to take back their lands seized illegally by Russia,” Blinken said.

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