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US Senate to vote on major aid package for Ukraine

The US Senate is set to vote on a major aid package for Ukraine, with its passage all but certain after the House of Representatives- following months of wrangling- approved the assistance with broad bipartisan support.

Top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer, whose party narrowly controls the chamber, said: “the finish line is now in sight” for the assistance package, and that an agreement had been “locked in” for a vote today.

“The task before us is urgent. It is once again the Senate’s turn to make history,” Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said.

The final package- which outlines a whopping $95 billion (€89 bn) in total military assistance to US allies, including money for Israel and Taiwan alongside the $61 billion earmarked for Ukraine- is expected to land on president Joe Biden’s desk for his approval by the end of the week.

The Senate vote should go more smoothly, without having to deal with the complicated negotiations and disagreements that plagued the Republican-controlled House.

Mr Biden promised Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky in a phone call yesterday that Kyiv could expect the assistance to arrive “quickly,” as they struggle forward in their over-two-year battle against Russia’s invasion.

The Ukrainian military is facing a severe shortage of weapons and new recruits as Moscow exerts constant pressure from the east.

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

– Security investment –

Mr Zelensky, after his conversation with Mr Biden, said he is counting on the speedy delivery of a “powerful” aid shipment to strengthen Ukraine’s air defence as well as “long-range and artillery capabilities.”

The debate over Ukraine aid has highlighted wide divisions between Democrats and Republicans in Congress- but it has also revealed deep fissures within the conservative movement ahead of November’s presidential match-up between Mr Biden and Donald Trump.

Many lawmakers waved Ukrainian flags in the US House chamber after the vote on Saturday- but were met with boos from Trump-allied Republicans.

Mr Biden and the Democrats like to frame Ukraine aid as an investment in US security against Russian aggression.

However, Republicans have been hesitant, wary of sending money overseas, and House Speaker Mike Johnson has spent much of his six-month tenure blocking a vote on economic and military aid for Ukraine.

Mr Johnson told reporters how he finally came around: “To put it bluntly, I would rather send bullets to Ukraine than American boys. My son is going to begin in the Naval Academy this fall.”

In addition to money for Ukraine, the vote will also decide on $13 billion for Israel’s war with Hamas, more than $9 billion for humanitarian assistance in Gaza and elsewhere and $8 billion in military support for Taiwan as it faces down China.

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