Biden pledges $3B weapons package to Ukraine to mark Kyiv’s Independence Day
President Biden marked Ukraine’s Independence Day on Wednesday by announcing a nearly $3 billion security assistance package to bolster Kyiv as it battles the Russian invasion.
The White House announcement came as Ukraine braced for stepped-up attacks from Russia on the holiday, which also coincided with the six-month mark of the start of Moscow’s military campaign.
“Over the past six months, Ukrainians have inspired the world with their extraordinary courage and dedication to freedom,” Biden said in a statement Wednesday morning announcing the $2.98 billion package of weapons and equipment for Ukraine.
“They have stood resolute and strong in the face of Russia’s full scale invasion of Ukraine. And today is not only a celebration of the past, but a resounding affirmation that Ukraine proudly remains — and will remain — a sovereign and independent nation,” Biden continued. “The United States of America is committed to supporting the people of Ukraine as they continue the fight to defend their sovereignty.”
The package represents the single largest tranche of U.S. assistance to Ukraine since the start of the Russian invasion in February.
The new package includes six National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile Systems, laser-guided rocket systems, Puma drones, “Vampire” counter-drone systems, as many as 245,000 rounds of ammunition for artillery and 65,000 rounds of ammunition for mortars, according to the Pentagon.
The new assistance is being provided through the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, meaning that the equipment will not come from existing U.S. weapons stockpiles.
Ukraine officials and international diplomats were told to telework on Wednesday due to increased threats of Russian attacks. Kyiv also banned public Independence Day celebrations.
The U.S. has sent billions in weapons and military equipment as well as economic and humanitarian assistance to Ukraine to help its forces battle the Russians and help address the effects of the war.
The latest funding comes from the nearly $40 billion bipartisan Ukraine assistance package that Congress approved earlier this spring.
U.S. weapons have played a critical role in helping Ukrainian forces defend their territory against the Russian invasion.
“Many people are saying we’re brave fighters, and that’s the truth — but we wouldn’t exist already if there was no support from the U.S. Literally, the U.S. saved and is saving Ukraine. It’s not a metaphor, it’s a clear truth,” Oleksii Arestovych, an adviser to the office of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, told The Hill in an interview in Kyiv on Tuesday.
In a tweet posted Wednesday morning, Zelensky thanked Biden for the “unprecedented” security assistance package and said that the Ukrainian people “highly appreciate” the unwavering support on the part of the U.S.
White House national security spokesman John Kirby told reporters that Biden planned to speak by phone with Zelensky on Thursday. Kirby said that the new announcement brings the total in U.S. security assistance pledged to Ukraine since Biden took office to $13.5 billion.
Russia failed early on in its goal of capturing the capital of Kyiv and has since shifted its focus to Ukraine’s east.
Kirby said Wednesday that the U.S. believes that Russia is preparing to hold “sham referenda” in the coming days and weeks in an effort to annex more Ukrainian territory.
“In fact, we could see a Russian announcement of the first one or ones before the end of this week,” Kirby said. “The United States and the international community have been very clear that any attempts to control Ukraine’s sovereign territory will not be considered legitimate.”
The White House has previously said that the Russians were laying the groundwork to hold such referenda in Kherson, Zaporizhzhia, Donetsk, and Luhansk.
The trajectory of the war is unclear, and the White House has warned that it could drag on for months if not longer. Biden said in Wednesday’s statement that the latest assistance package would ensure Ukraine “can continue to defend itself over the long term.”
Laura Kelly contributed reporting.
Updated at 2:00 p.m.