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WASHINGTON — President Biden announced another $800 million in military assistance to Ukraine, as Russia began what could be a decisive offensive in the Donbas region. Russian President Vladimir Putin hopes the second phase of the war will be more favorable to Russia than the initial invasion, launched in late February.
“Putin has failed to achieve his grand ambitions on the battlefield,” Biden said Thursday, as he prepared to leave Washington for a trip to the Pacific Northwest. He praised the Ukrainian military for having “beat back Putin’s savagery” in the battle for Kyiv, which Russian generals told Putin they would win easily. Instead, the battle for Ukraine’s capital turned out to be what Biden called a “historic victory for the Ukrainians.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said earlier this week that Russia has begun its offensive on the plains of the Donbas, where the Kremlin hopes to consolidate territorial gains first achieved in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine eight years ago.
Biden predicted on Thursday that the fighting in the Donbas would be “more limited in terms of geography, but not in terms of brutality,” an assessment generally shared by military experts. He said the $800 million in new military aid would include 144,000 rounds of ammunition, as well as heavy artillery, howitzers and “tactical drones,” an apparent reference to the explosive Switchblade unmanned aerial systems.
Putin “will never succeed in dominating and occupying all of Ukraine,” Biden vowed. “That will not happen.”
A prolonged occupation, however, would be to Russia’s advantage, turning Ukraine into an image of Chechnya, the breakaway Islamic republic that Putin invaded in one of his first major acts as prime minister in 1999. The fighting there was ruthless, and the ensuing occupation prolonged. By the time Russian forces finally withdrew in 2009, the dreams of a free Chechnya were dead.
Biden promised that support for Ukraine would be unwavering. “Putin is banking on us losing interest,” he said, adding a few moments later that Ukraine’s allies in the West “will not lessen our resolve.”
In order to “keep weapons and ammunition flowing without interruption,” Biden said he will ask Congress next week for additional funds to help Ukraine. He also announced $500 million in nonmilitary aid to Kyiv, as well as an expedited program for refugees from the war-ravaged nation seeking to enter the United States.
The president also said Russian ships would be prevented from docking at American ports.