White House warns Kyiv: Timeline uncertain for arrival of $60 billion Ukraine aid

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A top US official said Wednesday that Washington could not predict when a vital $60-billion military aid package for Ukraine would be passed, as a fresh round of aerial bombardments killed civilians in both Russia and Ukraine.

Kyiv’s army is facing manpower and ammunition shortages on the battlefield amid political wrangling in the US Congress that has raised uncertainty over the future of Western support.

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Addressing the stalled aid bill while on a visit to Kyiv on Wednesday, US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said: “It has already taken too long. And I know that, you know that.”

“I’m not going to make predictions about exactly when this will get done, but we are working to get it done as soon as possible... but I cannot make a specific prediction today,” he told reporters at a press conference in the Ukrainian capital.

Republicans in the US House of Representatives have been blocking a sweeping aid package since last year, with the funding caught up in domestic arguments over President Joe Biden’s immigration policies.

Washington is Ukraine’s most important military backer and has provided tens of billions of dollars in support since Moscow invaded in February 2022.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said aid delays cost Ukrainian lives and territory.

‘Get that money’

Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said Tuesday that he was shocked the package of aid has not yet been unlocked.

Sullivan said Wednesday that despite the hold-ups he was “confident” the impasse would be overcome.

“We will get that money out the door,” he said.

Both Moscow and Kyiv said civilians had been killed in aerial barrages Wednesday.

And President Vladimir Putin vowed to restore security to Russia’s border regions following a sharp increase in attacks over the past two weeks.

Kyiv has launched a barrage of drone and missile strikes on the Russian border regions of Belgorod and Kursk, and pro-Ukrainian paramilitaries have attempted armed raids into Russian territory.

Fresh attacks on Belgorod killed three civilians Wednesday, the Russian governor said.

In Ukraine, a Russian missile strike on Kharkiv killed at least five and injured eight, Ukrainian governor Oleg Synegubov said.

“The Russian armed forces launched a missile attack ... Rescue and firefighting operations are underway. There are still people under the rubble,” the Kharkiv regional prosecutor’s office said in a statement on Telegram.

‘Massive strikes’

Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, lies close to the Russian border, and has also seen increased attacks as Moscow’s invasion moves into its third year.

The city’s police force said an eight-storey building and a factory were hit at around 1:00 pm local time (1100 GMT).

Directly across the border in Russia’s Belgorod region, the governor said multiple attacks had killed three people.

“Since early morning, the Graivoron district has come under massive strikes, including with the use of multiple rocket launcher systems,” Governor Vyacheslav Gladkov said Wednesday in a post on Telegram.

Two people were killed there, and another man was killed in the regional capital, also called Belgorod, when shrapnel from a shelling attack hit his car, Gladkov said.

Some schools would shift to remote learning, a day after he ordered 9,000 children to be evacuated from areas closest to the Ukrainian border, he added.

Drone, rocket and shelling attacks on the region escalated earlier this month ahead of Russia’s presidential elections.

‘Victory’

In Moscow, Putin vowed he would restore order to the border regions, as the fallout from his invasion continues to spill into Russian territory.

“The first thing is of course to ensure security. There are different ways, they are not easy, but we will do them,” he said, without elaborating.

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Speaking inside the Kremlin’s gilded Andreyev Hall, Putin also said his win in a weekend presidential vote in which he faced no competition would be followed by success on the battlefield.

“Victory in the elections is just a prologue to those victories that Russia so badly needs and that will definitely come,” he said.

Russian forces have secured their first territorial gains in almost a year and this week claimed to have made further advances in the eastern Donetsk region.

Ukraine also reported civilian fatalities in areas close to the fighting on Wednesday.

In the south of the country, Russian shelling killed two people outside the city of Kherson and in the east, another two were killed near Vugledar in the Donetsk region.

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