The United States is set to ramp up weapons delivery to Ukraine, deepening its involvement in the simmering war in defiance of repeated warnings by arch-foe Russia.
A report in Associated Press (AP), quoting sources close to Congressional Democrats, said the Congress might vote on Tuesday to boost President Joe Biden’s requested $33 billion Ukraine aid package to nearly $40 billion.
Biden on Monday signed a bill into law aimed at streamlining the process for getting military assistance to Ukraine as Russian forces continue to make rapid advances in the former Soviet republic.
"I'm signing a bill that provides another important tool in our efforts to support the government of Ukraine and the Ukrainian people in their fight to defend their country and their democracy against (Russian President Vladimir) Putin's brutal war -- and it is brutal," Biden said.
“We cannot afford delay in this vital war effort,” he hastened to add, stressing that the bill needs to be finalized as soon as possible.
However, Republicans, whose backing would be crucial to pushing legislation through the evenly divided Senate, have opposed adding COVID-related financial sources to the Ukraine aid and it’s not clear where the additional money is going to be provided from.
“I'm focused on getting it done without extraneous matters on it, and getting it done quickly,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said of the latest proposal, adding that the measure “may adjust some in the process.”
The US and its European allies back Kiev with cash and sophisticated weaponry, while they have also slapped harsh sanctions against Moscow.
Besides military and financial aid, Biden’s administration has provided intelligence to the Ukrainian government, helping it to kill many Russian generals and to sink their flagship.
No way out of conflict
Speaking at a political fundraiser in Washington on Monday, Biden said Russia does not have a way out of its military offensive in Ukraine, and that he is trying to figure out what to do about it.
The US president said his Russian counterpart had mistakenly believed the Ukraine war would break up NATO and the European Union (EU), adding that it has prompted the US and many European allies to rally behind Ukraine.
EU-Hungary talks on Russian oil ban
According to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, more attempts are needed to urge Hungary to accept the EU-wide ban on Russian fossil fuels.
“This evening’s discussion with PM Viktor Orban was helpful to clarify issues related to sanctions and energy security”, von der Leyen said in a tweet, noting progress but adding that “further work is needed.”
Von der Leyen said she is set to convene a video conference with other countries in the region to strengthen regional cooperation on oil infrastructure.
Earlier, PM Orban had rejected the European Union’s proposal for imposing sanctions on Russian oil, saying the proposal would amount to “an atomic bomb” dropped on the Hungarian economy.
Meanwhile, French European Affairs Minister Clement Beaune has signaled the possibility of reaching an agreement in the EU this week to ban all oil imports from Russia.
“I think we could strike a deal this week,” Beaune told LCI television, adding that French President Emmanuel Macron was due to talk to Hungarian PM Orban later in the day.
Russian envoy splashed with red paint
Russia’s ambassador to Poland, Sergei Andreyev, was splashed with red paint by angry protesters at the soviet war memorial on Monday.
Video footage posted on Twitter showed people opposed to the war in Ukraine targeting the ambassador as he went to lay flowers at the Soviet Military Cemetery in Warsaw to mark the 77th anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany.
They surrounded the Russian delegation, holding flags and chanting “fascists” before Andreev was doused in the red substance.
“We will make a formal protest. When they recommended that we cannot hold a larger event, we met them halfway, we didn't aggravate the situation,” TASS news agency cited the ambassador as saying.
The Polish foreign ministry termed the incident “regrettable”.
“Diplomats enjoy special protection, regardless of the policies pursued by the governments that they represent,” it said in a statement published the same day.
Russian foreign ministry in a statement said a “strong protest” had been expressed to the Polish authorities for practically conniving with “neo-Nazi thugs”.
Poland, a strong supporter of Ukraine, has opposed any large-scale commemorations with Russia on this year's Victory Day.
Russian operation in Odesa port
Russian forces have reportedly shelled Odesa with several missiles and bombs, leaving the major Black Sea port in ruins, a day after Putin led a parade marking the Soviet's victory over Nazi Germany in World War II.
According to Ukraine’s armed forces, one person was killed and five people were injured in the attack when seven missiles struck a shopping center and a depot.
Odesa is Ukraine’s major port for exporting agricultural products. Ukraine and its allies have intensified efforts on unblocking ports or providing alternate routes for exporting its significant crops of grain, wheat, and corn.
Using nuclear weapons in Ukraine war
Russia has said that a decision on the possible use of nuclear weapons in the Ukraine conflict was set out in Russia's military doctrine.
"We have a military doctrine, everything is written there,” Russia's deputy foreign minister Alexander Grushko said when asked if Russia would rule out a preemptive tactical nuclear strike on Ukraine.
Russia's official military doctrine allows for the use of nuclear weapons in the event of a nuclear attack on Moscow, or if the Russian state faces an existential threat from conventional weapons.
The final decision to use such weapons rests with Putin, according to experts.
A decree signed by Putin on June 2, 2020, said Russia views its nuclear weapons as “exclusively a means of deterrence.”
The US and its western allies have repeatedly accused Moscow of harboring intentions to use nuclear weapons against Kiev. However, Russia has rejected the allegations.
Russia launched a military operation in Ukraine in late February, following Kiev’s failure to implement the terms of the Minsk agreements and Moscow’s recognition of the People’s Republics of Donetsk and Luhansk.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said one of the goals of what he referred to as a “special military operation” was to “de-Nazify” Ukraine.