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President Joe Biden plans to announce plans to send additional military aid to help Ukraine fight back against the Russian invasion, a US official said.
The official, who was not authorized to comment publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity, said Biden will deliver a speech Thursday morning at the White House outlining his plans to build on the approximately $2.6 billion in military aid that the government has already approved for Ukraine.
The new package is expected to be similar in size to the $800 million package that Biden announced last week. It includes much-needed heavy artillery and ammunition for Ukrainian troops in the escalating battle for the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine.
BIDEN GUESTS MILITARY HEADS AT WHITE HOUSE Amid Ukraine’s CARE WAR
Earlier this week, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also said his country will send heavy artillery to Ukraine. And Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte told Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy that the Netherlands will send more heavy weapons, including armored vehicles.
A senior US defense official said on Wednesday that training of Ukrainian personnel on US 155mm howitzers has begun in a European country outside Ukraine.
Biden on Wednesday praised US military officials for the “exceptional” work arming Ukraine as he gathered the country’s military for their first in-person group meeting at the White House of his presidency.
It’s an annual tradition that was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic, but is now being resurrected as the US arms Ukraine to help it fight back against the Russian invasion.
“I don’t know about you, but I’ve been to Ukraine a few times before the war…and I knew they were tough and proud, but I’m telling you, they’re tougher and prouder than I thought” Biden told military commanders, “I’m amazed at what they’re doing with your help.”
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Biden brought together the Pentagon’s top civilian and uniformed officials during the heaviest fighting in Europe since World War II. Russia’s nearly two-month-old invasion of Ukraine has been at the center of extensive talks with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks, the Joint Chiefs of Staff and combatant commanders.
Biden also used the meeting to reflect on his administration’s efforts to diversify Pentagon leadership. Hicks is the first Senate-confirmed woman to fill her role. Biden also chose Air Force General Jacqueline Van Ovost as commander of the United States Transportation Command and Army Lieutenant General Laura Richardson as commander of United States Southern Command. They are only the second and third women to lead the combatants’ commandos.
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“It’s an important milestone,” Biden said. “I think that says how we harness the strength and diversity of our country.”
After the meeting, Biden and First Lady Jill Biden hosted the military leaders and their husbands for dinner in the White House Blue Room.
Such a meeting was last held in October 2019. Donald Trump was then president and faced a House investigation that would lead to his first impeachment trial, which focused on allegations that he would withhold military aid to Ukraine as part of an attempt to pressure Zelenskyy to dig up dirt about Biden’s adult son’s business dealings in Ukraine.