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WASHINGTON: US President Joe Biden vowed to send fresh weapons to Ukraine within days as he prepared to sign on Wednesday an aid package including $61 billion meant to help Kyiv’s forces push back against Russia.

Congress approved on Tuesday the long-delayed legislation, which also contained a measure to ban TikTok in the United States if the popular social media app does not cut ties with its Chinese parent company.

Days after the Republican-led House of Representatives cleared the aid – part of a larger $95 billion package of assistance to allies including Israel and Taiwan – the Democratic-controlled Senate followed suit, passing it with bipartisan support on a 79-18 vote.

“I will sign this bill into law and address the American people as soon as it reaches my desk tomorrow so we can begin sending weapons and equipment to Ukraine this week,” Biden said in a statement shortly after the vote.

Biden tells Zelensky US will ‘quickly’ send military aid

Passage of the bill, which also provides much-needed humanitarian assistance to Gaza, Sudan and Haiti, comes after months of acrimonious debate among lawmakers over how or even whether to help Ukraine defend itself.

A similar aid package passed the Senate in February, but had been stalled in the House while Republican Speaker Mike Johnson – heeding calls from ex-president Donald Trump and his hardline allies – demanded concessions from Biden on immigration policies, before a sudden reversal.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who visited Washington in December to plead for fresh aid, quickly thanked US lawmakers for passing the bill, saying on social media that he looked “forward to the bill being signed soon and the next military aid package matching the resoluteness that I always see in our negotiations.”

“Ukraine’s long-range capabilities, artillery, and air defense are critical tools for restoring just peace sooner,” Zelensky added.

US House passes $95bn Ukraine, Israel aid package

Biden said the bill’s approval showed the United States stood “resolutely for democracy and freedom, and against tyranny and oppression,” while the Senate’s top Democrat, Chuck Schumer, said it sent a message that the United States “will not turn our back on you.”

But Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Wednesday that the US aid would make little difference on the front line.

“All the new batches of weapons are already surely ready and will not change the dynamics on the front,” Peskov told reporters.

The United States has been the chief military backer of Ukraine in its war against Russia, but Congress had not approved large-scale funding for its ally for nearly a year and a half.

The financing of the war has become a point of contention ahead of a presidential election in November that is expected to pit Biden against Trump once again.

Aid ‘within days’

A Pentagon spokesperson told reporters Tuesday it could deliver fresh aid to Ukraine “within days.”

Ukraine’s military is facing a severe shortage of weapons and recruits as Moscow exerts constant pressure from the east.

Frontline circumstances are expected to worsen in the coming weeks, with Ukrainian intelligence head Kyrylo Budanov predicting a “rather difficult situation” beginning in mid-May.

The debate over Ukraine assistance has highlighted wide divisions between Democrats and Republicans in Congress – but it has also revealed deep fissures within the conservative movement ahead of the November elections.

While some hardline Republicans have been wary of sending funds overseas, Biden and the Democrats frame Ukraine aid as an investment in US security against Russian aggression.

The Ukraine bill also allows Washington to confiscate and sell Russian assets and provide the money to Kyiv to finance reconstruction, a move that has been embraced by other G7 nations.

Kyiv has stepped up aerial attacks on Russian energy facilities over recent weeks in the hopes of crippling Moscow’s ability to attack Ukrainian cities or gain more ground in the industrial east.

Ukrainian drones attacked oil facilities in western Russia overnight, defence sources in Kyiv confirmed Wednesday, in the latest aerial assault by Kyiv aiming to dent Russian military logistics.

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