Ukraine defence minister visits Pentagon amid questions about future of aid

AFP

Ukraine's Defence Minister Rustem Umerov met US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin at the Pentagon on Wednesday, amid increasing warnings from President Joe Biden's administration to Congress that it is running out of time and money to help Ukraine fight its war against Russia.

Biden's administration in October asked Congress for nearly $106 billion to fund ambitious plans for Ukraine, Israel and US border security but Republicans who control the House with a slim majority rejected the package.

"We'll discuss Ukraine's strategic goals for the coming year and a long-term vision for a future force," Austin said at the start of the meeting, sitting alongside General Charles Q. Brown, the top US general.

Austin announced an additional aid package for Kyiv, including air defence munitions.

Umerov thanked Austin for the United States' support.

The talks at the Pentagon came as Biden administration officials and industry leaders met to discuss ways to support Ukraine's military, which has burned through artillery fighting Russian forces faster than its Western allies can produce.

"We must expand Ukraine's capacity to sustain the many different systems and platforms being provided by allies and partners around the world," Austin said earlier.

Biden pleaded with Republicans for a fresh infusion of military aid for Ukraine on Wednesday, warning that a victory for Russia over Ukraine would leave Moscow in position to attack NATO allies.

By mid-November, the Pentagon had used 97 per cent of $62.3 billion in supplemental funding it had received and the State Department had used all of the $4.7 billion in military assistance funding it had been allocated.

Congress has approved more than $110 billion for Ukraine since Russia's February 2022 invasion but it has not approved any funds since Republicans took over the House from Democrats in January.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy's chief of staff said on Tuesday that the postponement of US assistance for Kyiv being debated in Congress would create a "big risk" of Ukraine losing the war with Russia.

Ukraine conducted a major counteroffensive push this year, but was unable to break through Russian defensive lines. Russia is now on the offensive in the east.

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