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Tuesday April 23, 2024

Biden warns of ‘dire’ Ukraine fate in White House showdown

Showdown comes after President Zelensky warned that Ukraine desperately needs continued support from West to defeat Russia’s invasion

By Agencies
February 28, 2024
US President Joe Biden can be seen while speaking. — AFP/File
 US President Joe Biden can be seen while speaking. — AFP/File

WASHINGTON: US President Joe Biden warned top congressional leaders on Tuesday of the dire cost of failing to give Ukraine military aid as he hosted high-stakes talks at the White House.

The rare Oval Office meeting escalated efforts to unlock billions of dollars of stalled assistance for Ukraine’s fight against Russia’s invasion — and to avert a government shutdown at home.

“On Ukraine, I think the need is urgent,” said Biden, flanked by Vice President Kamala Harris, adding that the “consequence of inaction every day in Ukraine is dire.”

House Speaker Mike Johnson, a Donald Trump ally who leads a razor-thin Republican majority, has refused to allow a vote on a so-called supplemental funding bill in which Biden has asked for new aid to Ukraine.

Biden met Johnson and his Democratic counterpart Hakeem Jeffries, as well as the Senate’s Democratic Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and opposition chief Mitch McConnell.

The showdown comes after President Volodymyr Zelensky warned that Ukraine desperately needs continued support from the West to defeat Russia’s invasion, and voiced hope the United States would approve the stalled package that includes $60 billion of weapons and other aid.

Moscow is currently mounting heavy attacks on Ukrainian troops, who are struggling with an ammunition shortage as skeptical Republicans in the House of Representatives block aid.

Trump, Biden’s likely rival in November’s presidential election, is pressuring his party to deny further Ukraine funding until the United States has addressed his top campaign issue — a surge in illegal immigration at the US-Mexican border.

Many Republicans, though, are believed to want to back Ukraine’s fight. “There is a strong bipartisan majority in the House standing ready to pass this bill if it comes to the floor,” Biden’s national security advisor, Jake Sullivan, told CNN.