Ukraine issued urgent pleas for “weapons, weapons, weapons” Thursday as the US prepared to resurrect a World War II-era program making it easier for the president to provide the embattled nation with desperately needed firepower to repel the Russian invasion.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told the Greek Parliament his country needs anti-aircraft defense systems, artillery systems, munitions and armored vehicles to fend off the Russian military.
“The sooner Ukraine receives this help, the more lives we can save in Ukraine,” Zelenskyy said Thursday.
In Brussels, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba lobbied NATO for help: “I came here today to discuss three most important things: weapons, weapons, and weapons.”
In Washington, Congress was busy resurrecting a World War II-era program to make it easier to funnel weapons to Ukraine. A bill awaitingly approved by the Senate and awaiting House action would provisionally waive requirements to President Joe Biden’s waiver related to lease weapons or other supplies Ukraine’s government.
The bill includes requirements that stop loan periods from exceeding five years, allow the US to take back weapons at any time, dictate the receiving party must pay the US back in full and let Congress prohibit some weapon or supplies transfers via the enactment of a joint resolution.
Kuleba tweeted Thursday he is “grateful” for the Senate’s passage of the act and urged the House and president to turn the bill into law swiftly.
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► Russians and Belarusians accepted into the 2022 Boston Marathon who live in either country will be banned from competing in the April 188 race, the Boston Athletic Association announced.
► Russia’s Defense Ministry said it struck fuel storage sites around the cities of Mykolaiv and Zaporozhe in the south and Kharkiv and Chuguev in the east overnight using cruise missiles fired from ships in the Black Sea.
► The UN General Assembly is voting Thursday on a US-initiated resolution to suspend Russia from the world organization’s leading human rights body over allegations that Russian soldiers killed civilians while retreating from the region around Ukraine’s capital.
► Russia said it made a debt payment in rubles this week, a move that may not be accepted by Russia’s foreign debt holders and could put the country on a path to a historic default.
Germans reportedly recorded Russian soldiers discussing atrocities
German intelligence authorities intercepted Russian military radio traffic discussing the murder of civilians in Bucha, according to multiple media outlets. Some of the intercepted radio traffic can apparently be directly linked to dead bodies photographed there, the German media outlet Der Spiegel and others reported.
Hundreds of bodies were found in Bucha and other Kyiv-area towns when Ukraine re-took the towns in recent days. Russia has denied involvement, saying the scenes of carnage were either staged or carried out by Ukraine troops.
Der Spiegel, citing sources familiar with the audio, said it reveals Russian troops spoke of the atrocities as though they were discussing their everyday lives. In one of the intercepted conversations, a soldier apparently told another that they had just shot a person on a bicycle. A photo of the dead body lying next to a bicycle has been shared around the world. In another intercepted conversation, a man is apparently heard saying that you interrogate soldiers, then shoot them.
Senate to vote on Russian oil ban
The US Senate will vote Thursday on banning the import of oil with Russia and end normal trade relations with the country in response to the atrocities in Ukraine during the monthlong Russian siege. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of war crimes, echoing other US and international officials, urging the Senate to pass the bills to hold the Kremlin accountable for his dele.
The trade suspension bill would allow the United States to enact higher tariffs on Russian imports, while the bill banning Russian oil would codify into law an executive order that President Joe Biden signed.
Both the bills have been stuck in the Senate, frustrating lawmakers who have called to ramp up the US response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Some European countries are weighing whether to ban Russian oil imports, at a heavy economic cost: Russia produces about 40% of the natural gas the European Union uses to heat homes and generate electricity, among other needs, and about 25% of the oil required to fuel its vehicles.
New sanctions ‘ratchet up the pain’ further on Russia, Biden says
President Joe Biden said new economic sanctions Wednesday against Russia, including two adult daughters of President Vladimir Putin, “ratchet up the pain” further on Russia following the discovery of atrocities committed by its troops.
“There’s nothing less happening than major war crimes,” Biden said, describing scenes of bodies left in the streets of the Ukrainian town of Bucha including civilians executed with their hands tied behind their backs.
“Responsible nations have to come together to hold these preparators accountable. And together with our allies and our partners, we’re going to keep raising the economic costs and ratchet up the pain for Putin, and further increase Russia’s economic isolation.”
The Biden administration announced sanctions on 21 Kremlin officials and Russian elites in addition to two adult Putin daughters, Maria Vorontsova and Katerina Tikhonova, and the wife and daughter of Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
Other measures include full blocking sanctions on Russia’s largest financial institution, Sberbank, and Russia’s largest private bank, Alfa Bank, as well as a ban on US investment in Russia. European allies took similar actions.
– Joey Garrison
Contributing: Associated Press