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18 Feb, 2024 13:39

Ukraine will lose more cities without US aid – Biden

The US president has said that he is “going to fight” to give another $60 billion to Kiev
Ukraine will lose more cities without US aid – Biden

US President Joe Biden made a renewed appeal to Congress to approve $60 billion in military aid for Kiev, saying that “no-one can be” confident Ukraine won’t lose more ground without it. 

“I spoke with [Ukrainian President Vladimir] Zelensky this afternoon to let him know that I was confident we’re going to get that money,” Biden told reporters in Delaware on Saturday, hours after the Russian Defense Ministry announced the liberation of Avdeevka, a town of strategic importance in the Donbass region. The White House, the Pentagon, and Zelensky have blamed the loss of Avdeevka on the dwindling supplies of US arms and ammunition reaching Ukraine. 

Situated less than 10km from the outskirts of Donetsk in Russia’s Donetsk People’s Republic, Avdeevka was occupied by the Ukrainian military in 2014. Heavily fortified by Ukrainian troops, the town was used as a launching ground for attacks on Donetsk, many of which targeted civilians. The capture of Avdeevka will help protect Donetsk from “terrorist attacks by the criminal Kiev regime,” the defense ministry said.

The US has already given Kiev more than $44.2 billion in military aid, but no additional funds have been appropriated, and a foreign aid bill that would allocate another $60 billion in military assistance to Kiev remains stalled in Congress, where House Republicans want it tied to a major tightening of US immigration law and funding for border security.

“I’m going to fight to get them the ammunition they need,” Biden said, adding that it would be “absurd” and “unethical” for Republicans to continue blocking the bill. 

Asked whether he could be certain Ukraine would hold on to other front line cities without more American weapons and ammo, Biden replied “I’m not. I’m not. No one can be.”

Zelensky’s newly-appointed commander-in-chief, General Aleksandr Syrsky, announced the retreat from Avdeevka on Friday, just days after he deployed Ukraine’s Western-armed 3rd Assault Brigade to hold the city. With Avdeevka almost completely surrounded and the defenders describing conditions as “hellish,” Syrsky lost 1,500 men in a disorganized rout  before Russia claimed control of the city, the Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement

It is unclear how many men Syrsky and his predecessor, General Valery Zaluzhny, lost attempting to hold Avdeevka. However, the Russian Defense Ministry puts Kiev’s overall losses since February 2022 at 383,000 as of the beginning of this month.

While Biden and his officials have hailed more weapons and ammo as the sole solution to Ukraine’s battlefield woes, some Western media outlets have warned that these weapons will not make a difference without troops to fire them. Ukraine is facing a “critical” manpower shortage, the Washington Post reported earlier this month, adding that this deficit could result in collapse along the front.

Zelensky has sought to remedy the manpower shortage by announcing plans to conscript  500,000 more soldiers. While this plan is unpopular among Ukrainian citizens and reportedly caused a rift between Zelensky and Zaluzhny that led to the latter’s dismissal earlier this month, the Ukrainian parliament has advanced a bill drastically limiting the rights of draft-dodgers, which will likely come into force early next month.

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