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Zelenskyy to address US lawmakers amid debate about new aid for Ukraine

Europe

 

 Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy poses for a photo after his interview with The Associated Press in Kharkiv, Ukraine, Nov 30, 2023. Zelenskyy will address members of the U.S. Senate today amid a push to approve new funding to help Ukraine. [AP Photo]

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is set to address members of the U.S. Senate Tuesday amid a push by the White House for Congress to urgently approve new funding to help Ukraine in its defense against Russia’s invasion.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Zelenskyy was invited to speak via video at a classified briefing “so we can hear directly from him precisely what’s at stake” when lawmakers vote on a bill that includes billions of dollars in aid for Ukraine.

Office of Management and Budget Director Shalanda Young warned in a letter to congressional leaders Monday that by the end of the year, the U.S. will no longer have the funds to send weapons and assistance to Ukraine.

It "will not be able to keep fighting,” Young said of Ukraine, noting that the U.S. has already run out of money for propping up Ukraine’s economy.

In October, the Biden administration asked Congress for nearly $106 billion to fund ambitious plans for Ukraine, Israel and U.S. border security.

Funding for Ukraine has become politically controversial with some right-leaning lawmakers in the narrowly Republican-controlled Congress.

Young said in the letter released by the White House that cutting off funding and a flow of weapons to Ukraine would likely work to Russia’s advantage on the battlefield.

"I want to be clear: Without congressional action, by the end of the year we will run out of resources to procure more weapons and equipment for Ukraine, to provide equipment from U.S. military stocks," she wrote. "There is no magical pot of funding available to meet this moment. We are out of money — and nearly out of time," she said.

With a nod to important political swing states and Republican strongholds ahead of the 2024 election, Young noted that funding could be used for contracts with companies in Alabama, Texas, Georgia, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Michigan.

EU-Ukraine

Diplomatic envoys of the EU's 27 member countries will meet Tuesday to start debating a launch of EU membership talks with Ukraine, according to officials and diplomats.

The meeting marks the start of preparations among the 27 for the December 14-15 summit of the bloc's leaders that will also assess and decide on EU integration prospects for Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, Bosnia and others.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has demanded that Ukraine’s membership bid into the European Union not be on the agenda at the EU summit.

In a letter he sent to European Council President Charles Michel, who will chair the summit in Brussels, Orban insisted that a “strategic discussion” is needed first about Ukraine’s European future and warned that forcing a decision could destroy EU unity.

Orban, who is widely considered one of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s closest allies in Europe, maintains that Ukraine is “light years away” from becoming an EU member.

He wrote that EU leaders “must avoid this counterproductive scenario for the sake of unity, our most important asset.” He did not explicitly say that Hungary would veto any moves to open membership talks with Ukraine, but the threat was implicit.

Michel’s office declined to comment.

Decisions regarding EU membership and the EU’s long-term budget, which includes $54.1 billion in assistance for Kyiv, can only be made unanimously by all 27 member countries.

Ukraine is relying on EU funds to help its war-ravaged economy survive in the coming year.

"Ukraine's future membership in the EU serves as a robust assurance of security for our nation and the European community as a whole," Ihor Zhovkva, deputy head of Ukraine’s presidential office, said during consultations with EU official Charles Fries on the EU's collective security commitments to Ukraine.

Ukraine-Russia fighting

In a post on the X social media platform, formerly Twitter, Ukrainian Presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said that Kyiv is focused on increasing domestic arms production and speeding up talks with partners to boost military supplies. He said that though Ukraine is anticipating a stiff offensive from Russia this winter, Ukrainians are prepared, taking into account the experience of the last winter.

“The winter won't be easy, given that Russia pays absolutely no attention to international law, conventions and rules of warfare, deliberately attacking civilians on a massive scale,” Podolyak said.

Ukraine’s military said Monday on the Telegram messaging service that it attacked oil depots in the Russia-controlled Ukrainian city of Luhansk a day earlier.

Earlier Monday, Russian state news agency RIA Novosti said Ukrainian troops attacked an oil depot there with combat drones.

 

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