US Congress reaches deal on billions in Ukraine aid

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
The US Capitol building is lit at dusk in Washington, US, December 18, 2017. (Reuters photo)

US Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has announced a deal reached between the two parties to allocate billions of dollars in emergency aid for Ukraine.

McConnell said Tuesday the deal would provide $14 bn in additional assistance to Ukraine, which would include loan guarantees to help NATO allies including Poland purchase US warplanes to replace warplanes transferred to Ukraine.

“Where we’ve ended up is at $14 billion,” McConnell told reporters. "We need to provide them loan guarantees and assurance that they will be able to get a way to backfill the loss of those MiGs for their own security."

There, however, appeared to be a disagreement over the sum of Ukraine aid, with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer saying it would amount to less than $14 billion.

However, either way, the figures represent a rise from last week's $10 billion request from the White House.

McConnell also said it had been like “pulling teeth” negotiating a higher dollar-value with Democrats, whom he said were eager to block passage of the bill.

Some progressives have raised questions about the scale of weapons shipments being deployed to militia groups aligned with Ukraine’s government some of whom experts have warned have white nationalist ideologies.

"It's been like pulling teeth to get out of House Democrats what the Ukrainians obviously need at this particular time," said McConnell.

After describing the pace of negotiations “much too slow,” he urged the Senate to pass it quickly once legislation came through the House.

“It needs to be passed, and it needs to be passed quickly,” he said.

On 24 February, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a military operation in Ukraine after Kiev failed to implement the Minsk agreements and resolve the conflict in Donbass peacefully.

Putin said that Russia was left with no other choice but to act after weeks of shelling of the Donetsk and Lugansk People's Republics (DPR and LPR) by Ukrainian forces. He thus ordered Russian forces to demilitarize Ukraine.

US President Joe Biden called the Russian action an "unprovoked and unjustified attack," and the American media described it as the biggest assault on a European state since World War Two assault by Russia.

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