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Leaders from Ukraine and the West praise the aid package from the US, while the Kremlin warns of more damage

Ukrainian and Western leaders have expressed appreciation for the approval of a much-needed aid package for Ukraine by the U.S. House of Representatives.

By SAMYA KULLAB and ELISE MORTON (Associated Press)

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Ukrainian and Western leaders on Sunday expressed a positive reception for an urgently needed aid package that was approved by the U.S. House of Representatives, but the Kremlin cautioned that the passage of the bill would cause more harm to Ukraine and result in more deaths.

Ukrainian military leaders and analysts believe that the long-awaited $61 billion military aid package — including $13.8 billion for Ukraine to purchase weapons — will help slow down Russia’s gradual advances in the war's third year. However, they also believe that Kyiv will likely need more assistance to regain the offensive.

The House quickly endorsed $95 billion in foreign aid for Ukraine, Israel, and other U.S. allies in an unusual Saturday session, with Democrats and Republicans uniting after months of resistance to renewed American support for repelling Russia's full-scale invasion..

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who had cautioned that his country would lose the war without U.S. funding, expressed gratitude for the decision made by U.S. lawmakers.

Speaking on NBC's “Meet the Press,” Zelenskyy stated that the aid package would “send a strong message to the Kremlin that (Ukraine) will not become the second Afghanistan.”

Zelenskyy mentioned that Ukraine would prioritize long-range weapons and air defenses to disrupt Russia's plans for an anticipated “full-scale offensive,” for which Ukrainian forces are preparing.

The aid package will go to the U.S. Senate, where it could be passed as early as Tuesday. U.S. President Joe Biden has pledged to promptly sign it.

It could still take weeks for the aid to reach the front line, where it is urgently required.

“With this, we can halt (Russian troops) and reduce our casualties,” stated infantry soldier Oleksandr, who has been involved in fighting around Avdiivka, the city in the Donetsk region that Ukraine lost to Russia in February after months of intense combat.

Due to the delay in aid over the past six months, ammunition shortages have forced Ukrainian military leaders to ration shells, a disadvantage that Russia capitalized on this year by seizing the city of Avdiivka and currently advancing towards the town of Chasiv Yar, also in Donetsk.

“The Russians come at us in waves, and we get exhausted, so we have to abandon our positions. This happens repeatedly,” explained Oleksandr to The Associated Press. He chose not to disclose his full name for security reasons. “Without enough ammunition, we cannot cover the area that we are responsible for holding when they attack us.”

In Kyiv, many celebrated the U.S. vote as a piece of good news after a difficult period during which Russia has made gains along the front line and intensified attacks on Ukraine's energy system and other infrastructure.

“I heard our president officially say that we can lose the war without this help. Thank you very much, and yesterday was a great event,” said Kateryna Ruda, 43.

Tatyana Ryavchenuk, the wife of a Ukrainian soldier, emphasized the need for more weapons, expressing sorrow that soldiers “have nothing to protect us.”

“They need weapons, they need equipment, they need it. We always need help because without it, our enemy can advance further and reach the center of our city,” said the 26-year-old.

Other leaders from Western countries, who have been rushing to find ways to fill the gap caused by halted U.S. military aid, also praised Congress’ decision.

“Ukraine is using the weapons given by NATO Allies to dismantle Russian combat capabilities. This makes us all safer, in Europe & North America,” expressed NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg on X.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen stated that “Ukraine deserves all the support it can get against Russia,” and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz described the vote as “a strong signal in these times.”

Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk expressed gratitude to House Speaker Mike Johnson, while also acknowledging the holdup in Congress. “Better late than too late. And I hope it is not too late for Ukraine,” he wrote on X.

In Russia, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov on Saturday called the approval of aid to Ukraine “expected and predictable.”

The decision “will make the United States of America richer, further ruin Ukraine and result in the deaths of even more Ukrainians, the fault of the Kyiv regime,” Peskov was quoted as saying by Russian news agency Ria Novosti.

“The new aid package will not save, but, on the contrary, will kill thousands and thousands more people, prolong the conflict, and bring even more grief and devastation,” stated Leonid Slutsky, head of the Russian State Duma Committee on International Affairs, on Telegram.

The Institute for the Study of War, a think tank based in Washington, mentioned that the logistics of getting U.S. assistance to the front line would mean that “Ukrainian forces may suffer additional setbacks” while waiting for it to arrive.

“But they will likely be able to blunt the current Russian offensive assuming the resumed U.S. assistance arrives promptly,” it said in its latest assessment of the conflict.

Olexiy Haran, professor of comparative politics at the National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy, expressed that Ukraine was grateful for aid from the U.S. and other Western countries, “but the problem is, frankly speaking, it’s too late and it’s not enough.”

“This is the third year of the war and we still don’t have aviation, new aviation. We don’t have enough missiles, so we cannot close the skies. Moreover, recently we didn’t have even artillery shells,” he said.

“That’s why the situation was very, very difficult and the Russians used it to start their offensive. So that’s why it is so important for us. And definitely if we’d received it half a year before, we would have saved the lives of many Ukrainians, civilians included.”

Matthew Savill, military sciences director at the Royal United Services Institute think tank, mentioned that the aid, while welcome, “can probably only help stabilize the Ukrainian position for this year and begin preparations for operations in 2025.”

“Predictability of funding through 2024 and into 2025 will help the Ukrainians plan the defense this year, especially if European supplies of ammunition also come through, but further planning and funds will be required for 2025, and we have a U.S. election between now and then,” he said.

Responding to a question on NBC about how long Ukraine will still need aid packages, Zelenskyy said “it depends on when we actually get weapons on the ground.”

The F-16 fighter jets were promised to Ukraine a year ago, but they still haven't arrived there.

In other news:

— Russia’s Defense Ministry announced on Sunday that its troops had seized control of the village of Bohdanivka in the Donetsk region. Ukrainian officials have not yet responded.

— Russian shelling in Ukrainsk on Sunday resulted in one person being killed and four others wounded, according to the prosecutor’s office in Ukraine’s partially occupied Donetsk region. In the Odesa region, four people were injured in a missile attack, said Gov. Oleh Kiper.

— Two suspects were arrested on Sunday for the killing of a police officer by two Ukrainian soldiers at a checkpoint in the Vinnytsia region. The soldiers shot Maksym Zaretskyi, 20, on Saturday after he stopped their car for a routine inspection. Zaretskyi’s partner was also injured but survived. The head of Ukraine’s National Police, Ivan Vyhovsky, stated that the suspects, a 52-year-old father and his 26-year-old son, were detained in Ukraine’s Odesa region.

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Check out AP’s reporting on the war in Ukraine at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

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