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Ukraine Aid Bill Inches Closer Toward Clearing US Senate


Firefighters extinguish a fire after a Russian attack on a residential neighborhood in Kharkiv, Ukraine, Feb. 10, 2024.
Firefighters extinguish a fire after a Russian attack on a residential neighborhood in Kharkiv, Ukraine, Feb. 10, 2024.

The U.S. Senate is working through the weekend on a $95.3 billion military aid package, of which about $60 billion would go to support Ukraine's defensive war against Russia.

Late Friday, 64 senators voted in favor of the bill while 19 voted against it. Fourteen Republicans joined Democrats to move the proposal toward the next stage while facing objections from a group of Republicans more closely aligned with the GOP's presidential front-runner, Donald Trump, who don't consider U.S. support of Ukraine against Russia a priority.

Majority Leader Chuck Schumer told the senators he would be willing to amend the package to win over more support, but the New York Democrat also warned they would stay in session "until the job is done."

Even if the foreign aid package clears the Senate with possible Sunday voting, the package still faces an uncertain fate in the House. In that chamber, the Republican majority is even more hostile to helping the U.S. ally in Europe, as the war between Ukraine and Russia enters its second year.

On Friday, U.S. President Joe Biden decried a Republican delay on approving new U.S. aid to Ukraine.

"The failure of the United States Congress, if it occurs, not to support Ukraine is close to criminal neglect. It is outrageous," Biden said in the White House Oval Office alongside German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

Scholz made a whirlwind stop in Washington to support Biden's efforts to gain funding for Ukraine.

Scholz addressed growing concerns in Europe about the standoff between the Democratic president and House Republicans on Ukraine funding.

"Without the support of [the] United States, and without the support of the European states, Ukraine will have not a chance to defend its own country," Scholz said.

Biden: Failure to Fund Ukraine Would Be 'Close to Criminal Neglect'
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US lawmakers debate bill

In Washington, VOA's Ukrainian Service asked senators Thursday if the Ukraine bill has a chance to pass.

Senator Chris Murphy, a Democrat and member of the Foreign Relations Committee, said, "It's up to Republicans. Obviously, Democrats are ready to support Ukraine aid in any way, shape, or form. Republicans said last fall they would not vote for Ukraine aid unless we fixed the border. We did that. We got a bipartisan bill to fix the border. Republicans all voted against it yesterday. They all voted against Ukraine aid."

Republican Senator Roger Marshall told VOA, "I'm not going to vote for any further military funding, supplemental funding, or anything else until we pass something that actually secures the border."

Another Republican Senator, Bill Cassidy, defended the bill, telling VOA, "The United States needs to support allies, because there are bad countries out there attempting to stop, hurt the United States. It is in the United States' interests to support our allies."

Senator Tommy Tuberville, also a Republican, and a member of the Armed Services Committee, said he stood against the bill. "I haven't supported any Ukraine money to this point," he told VOA. "I haven't decided where we're going to go with this. We do need more munitions."

The United States has been Ukraine's largest supplier of military assistance in the war, but that help is stalled while Congress wrangles over a bill providing aid to Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan.

Zelenskyy thanks 'American partners'

In his nightly video address Friday, Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy expressed appreciation for Washington's help in defending Ukraine's sovereignty and democracy from the beginning of the war.

Zelenskyy underscored, however, that Ukraine continues to face extraordinary challenges in this war. "In Europe, there are increasing voices about how the Kremlin is preparing to expand aggression. The continuation of American support is necessary. And I thank all our American partners who understand this."

Zelenskyy added that Russian President Vladimir Putin "sobers up only when he sees strength before him."

Ukraine says Russian drone attacks Saturday on the city of Kharkiv, Ukraine's second largest city, killed at least seven people, including three children, and triggered fires that damaged homes and other civilian infrastructure.

Regional Governor Oleh Syniehubov wrote on Telegram that drones had damaged civilian infrastructure in the city's Nemyshlyan district. The attack by the Iranian-made Shahed drones caused a fire that destroyed at least 14 private homes. Reporters from Suspilne public television observed the glow of a fire over the city. Ukraine's air force said it downed 23 of the 31 Russian-launched drones.

Viktor Tereshchenko, the top military official in Velykyi Burluk, a town east of Kharkiv, told Suspilne that drones had damaged a hospital and a restaurant.

Officials reported an attack on a hospital in the town last week, prompting the evacuation of dozens of patients.

In the Black Sea port of Odesa, the regional governor said a drone attack had injured one person.

Three people were reported killed in shelling earlier in the day in a village in Sumy region, on the border with Russia.

VOA Ukrainian’s Kateryna Lisunova contributed to this story. Some information came from The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters.

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