Five things to know about the war between Russia and Ukraine this week

Nearly three months after the Russian invasion began, Ukrainian forces are launching counterattacks to recapture territory as the United States moves to provide billions in additional aid to the war-torn country.

As Ukraine continues to face a brutal Russian offensive in the eastern Donbas region, President Biden requested late last month that Congress approve $33 billion in security, economic and humanitarian assistance for Ukraine.

The House on Tuesday approved a package worth billions of dollars more than the president asked for. Senate leaders also tried to quickly pass the bill in the upper house, but it has been held up in the Senate by Republican Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.)

Amid the delay, a delegation of Republican senators was led by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to Ukraine on Saturday to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

In recent days, Ukraine has also recaptured territory from Russian forces in the northeast and Finland has announced its intentions to apply for NATO membership amid Russian opposition.

Here are five things you need to know about the war this week:

The House approved $40 billion in assistance for Ukraine

The House on Tuesday approved a $39.8 billion Ukrainian aid package in a 368-57 vote.

All 57 votes against the bill were Republicans, with those who opposed the measure citing the US national debt. Two Democrats and three Republicans did not vote.

The price of the bill passed by the House was well above the $33 billion in aid for Ukraine that President Biden requested late last month.

“The House took a critical step today in sending a clear, bipartisan message to Ukraine, Russia and the world that the United States stands with the people of Ukraine as it defends its democracy against Russian aggression,” said House press secretary White, Jen. Psaki wrote in a statement after the House passed the bill.

The package will “send more weapons, such as artillery, armored vehicles and ammunition, to Ukraine” and help the United States “replenish our stockpiles and support US troops on NATO territory,” he said.

Rand Paul blocked the rapid approval of aid to Ukraine in the Senate

After the bill passed the House was sent to the Senate, it was stopped over an objection from Paul.

Paul blocked a deal introduced by Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (DN.Y.) and McConnell because he wanted to add language to the bill that would expand the role of Afghanistan’s inspector general to include oversight of aid to Ukraine. .

Paul also warned about the pace of spending, saying “we cannot save Ukraine by dooming the US economy.”

“Americans are feeling the pain [from inflation] and Congress seems to have the sole intention of adding to that pain by getting more money out the door as quickly as it can,” he added.

The bill would have gone to the floor on Thursday, but is now possibly delayed for more than a week because of Paul.

McConnell and other Republican senators visit Ukraine

McConnell, along with Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine), John Cornyn (R-Texas) and John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), traveled to Ukraine and met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Saturday.

“The visit of the United States Senate delegation led by Republican Minority Leader to the Upper House of Congress, Mitchell McConnell, is a powerful signal of bipartisan support for Ukraine by the United States Congress and the people of the United States. American,” Zelensky said after the visit ended. .

The Republican visit comes after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (DN.Y.) and First Lady Jill Biden also made visits to war-torn countries earlier in the month.

“It was inspiring to visit the historic capital of a beautiful country that has been forced to fight for its own survival,” McConnell said. “We saw firsthand the courage, unity and determination of the Ukrainian people. The Ukrainians are bravely fighting a deranged invader and have already succeeded beyond the skeptics’ wildest dreams. They are willing and determined to continue fighting for victory. Ukraine is not asking anyone else to fight their fight. They only ask for the tools they need for self-defense.”

The senators joined a growing list of officials, lawmakers and world leaders who have gone to Ukraine amid the ongoing conflict, as Zelensky has encouraged such visits.

Zelensky urged Biden to also travel to Ukraine. US officials have said the president currently has no plans to do so.

Ukraine recovers towns and cities around Kharkiv

On Thursday, the UK Ministry of Defense announced that Ukraine had retaken villages and towns north of the city of Kharkiv that were previously held by Russian forces.

“Russia’s prioritization of operations in the Donbas has left elements deployed in Kharkiv Oblast vulnerable to the mobile and highly motivated Ukrainian counterattack force,” the ministry said.

He added that after suffering heavy losses, Russia was withdrawing units from the area with the aim of reorganizing and replenishing its forces.

“The withdrawal of Russian forces from Kharkiv Oblast is a tacit acknowledgment of Russia’s inability to capture key Ukrainian cities where they expected limited resistance from the population,” the ministry said.

The development marks another blow to Russia, which previously failed to capture kyiv in the first weeks of the war and withdrew from the area around the Ukrainian capital to mount a renewed offensive in the country’s east.

Finland’s leaders say they want to join NATO, prompting pushback from Russia

Finnish leaders called this week for the country to apply to join NATO “without delay”, prompting Russia to reiterate its opposition to such a move.

“NATO membership would strengthen Finland’s security. As a NATO member, Finland would strengthen the entire defense alliance,” Finnish President Sauli Niinistö and Prime Minister Sanna Marin said in a joint statement.

“Finland must apply for NATO membership without delay,” they said. “We hope that the national steps that are still needed to make this decision will be taken quickly in the coming days.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke to Niinistö on Saturday and said Finland should not apply for NATO membership as its security is not threatened and doing so could “negatively affect” Russian-Finnish relations.

Shortly after Russia invaded Ukraine, a Russian official said the country would go after Finland or Sweden if they sought NATO membership.

“Finland and Sweden should not base their security on harming the security of other countries and joining NATO may have harmful consequences and face some military and political consequences,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova warned in February. .

The Russian assault on Ukraine has pushed both Finland and Sweden to reconsider their absence from NATO, which commits members to defend each other if attacked.

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