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Trump administration releases $250M in military aid to Ukraine

Trump administration releases $250M in military aid to Ukraine
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The Trump administration is releasing $250 million in military aid after lawmakers raised concerns over its delay, members of the Senate Appropriations Committee announced Thursday.

The administration had put a hold on the funding, which lawmakers in both parties argued was key to fending off Russian aggression.

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"The Departments of State and Defense are proceeding with the obligation of all military and security assistance funding to Ukraine," a senior administration official said. "The Administration supports Ukraine’s efforts of reform and self-defense, and these funds will advance Ukrainian efforts toward those ends."

The decision came as members of the committee met to mark-up spending bills. 

Sen. Dick DurbinDick DurbinOvernight Defense: House approves waiver for Biden's Pentagon nominee | Biden to seek five-year extension of key arms control pact with Russia | Two more US service members killed by COVID-19 Senate approves waiver for Biden's Pentagon nominee Bipartisan Senate gang to talk with Biden aide on coronavirus relief MORE (Ill.), the top Democrat on the subcommittee, had offered an amendment to require that the 2020 aid allocated for Ukraine be spent on time, and threatened to put a hold on $5 billion of the Pentagon's administrative money until they did.

Durbin ultimately withdrew the amendment, though a couple Republican senators said they would have backed it as a show of support for Ukraine.

The White House last month opted not to move forward with other broader cuts to foreign aid amid pushback from some top administration officials.

A Defense Department spokesperson said earlier this month that the U.S. was working with Ukrainian officials to evaluate the needs of the country's armed forces.

But bipartisan lawmakers grew uneasy over the delay in funds and wrote to Trump earlier this month warning that the money was critical for Ukraine to develop its own military capabilities and maintain its sovereignty as it faces Russian threats. 

Tensions between Russia and Ukraine have been heightened since 2014, when Moscow annexed the Crimean Peninsula and backed separatists in the neighboring country.

The move led to sanctions and Russia's expulsion from the then-Group of Eight, though President TrumpDonald TrumpIran's leader vows 'revenge,' posting an image resembling Trump Former Sanders spokesperson: Biden 'backing away' from 'populist offerings' Justice Dept. to probe sudden departure of US attorney in Atlanta after Trump criticism MORE has in each of the past two years expressed a willingness to readmit Russia.

Niv Elis contributed.