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Biden Rips Republican Delay to New US Aid for Ukraine


The lights stay on at the U.S. Capitol in Washington on Feb. 9, 2024, as the U.S. Senate settles in for a rare weekend session to work on a package of wartime funding for Ukraine, Israel and other U.S. allies.
The lights stay on at the U.S. Capitol in Washington on Feb. 9, 2024, as the U.S. Senate settles in for a rare weekend session to work on a package of wartime funding for Ukraine, Israel and other U.S. allies.

U.S. President Joe Biden decried a Republican delay on approving new U.S. aid to Ukraine for its defensive war against Russia.

"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 Oval Office of the White House, alongside German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

Scholz made a whirlwind stop in Washington to support the president'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 United States, and without the support of the European states, Ukraine will have not a chance to defend its own country," Scholz said.

The U.S. Senate is moving toward a final vote to advance a $95.3 billion military aid package, of which about $60 billion would go toward Ukraine's war with Russia.

Earlier Friday, a bipartisan delegation of U.S. Congress members met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv, Ukraine, seeking to give assurances they would do their part to get crucial, stalled military aid legislation through the House of Representatives.

The delegation consisted of four members of the House Intelligence Committee: Republicans Mike Turner and French Hill, along with Democrats Jason Crow and Abigail Spanberger.

"The United States is working diligently in the House of Representatives and the Senate to secure the funding that is necessary in 2024," Turner told journalists at a press conference in Kyiv before the delegation left to meet Zelenskyy.

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

Biden: Failure to Fund Ukraine Would Be 'Close to Criminal Neglect'
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U.S. Senator Chris Murphy, a Democrat, 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, told VOA he stood against the bill. "I haven't supported any Ukraine money to this point. I haven't decided where we're going to go with this. We do need more munitions."

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

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

Zelenskyy underscored, however, that Ukraine continues to face extraordinary challenges. "In Europe, there are increasing voices about how the Kremlin is preparing to expand aggression," he said. "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."

Russia ready to discuss prisoner swap, says Putin

Meanwhile, Putin used an interview broadcast late Thursday with former Fox News host Tucker Carlson to urge Washington to recognize Moscow's interests and persuade Ukraine to sit down for talks.

Putin said it's up to Washington to stop supplying weapons to Ukraine, which he called a U.S. "satellite," and to persuade Kyiv to negotiate, saying a deal was the way to end the war.

Putin repeated his claim that the full-scale invasion in February 2022 — which Kyiv and its allies describe as an unprovoked act of aggression — was to protect Russian interests and prevent Ukraine from posing a threat to Russia by joining NATO.

He also said the West won't succeed in inflicting a "strategic defeat" on Russia in Ukraine and rejected allegations that Moscow harbors plans to attack Poland or other NATO countries.

Putin also asserted that Russia is ready to negotiate a prisoner exchange for Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, who was jailed in March 2023 on espionage charges that he denies. The Russian leader suggested Moscow wants the release of a Russian imprisoned in Germany.

At a press conference Thursday, White House National Security Spokesman John Kirby cautioned not to take Putin's comments "at face value," reminding that Russia was the one that initiated the invasion of Ukraine in 2022.

Relentless warfare

Drones targeted civilian infrastructure late Friday in and near Kharkiv, Ukraine's second largest city, officials said.

Regional governor Oleh Synehubov wrote on Telegram that drones had damaged civilian infrastructure in the city's Nemyshlianskyi district. Reporters from Suspilne public television observed the glow of a fire over the city.

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 was provided by The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters.

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