Biden signs $40B Ukraine aid as Zelensky hints at ceding territory

President Biden signed the bill granting $40 billion in aid to Ukraine while attending a state dinner in South Korea, as Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky hinted he may be willing to cede territory to Russia to save civilian lives.

The legislation, which passed Congress with bipartisan support, includes $20 billion in military assistance and intelligence support, $8 billion in general economic support, $5 billion to address global food shortages that could result from the collapse of Ukrainian agriculture, and more than $1 billion to help refugees. The bill brings to total value of US aid since Russia’s Feb 24 invasion to a staggering $54 billion.

The bill was delivered to Biden under unusual circumstances: a US official carried a copy on a commercial flight to Seoul for the president to sign, after it was held up in the Senate for a week by Kentucky’s Rand Paul, according to a White House official.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin tweeted that he will host a meeting Monday of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group, which will include defense representatives from more than 40 countries. Prior to the meeting, he had a phone call with Ukrainian counterpart Oleskii Reznikovto discuss “Ukraine’s military requirements,” the post said.

The signing came a day after Russia’s most significant victory so far in the nearly four-month-old war, the capture of the port city of Mariupol, and on the day Zelensky marked the third anniversary of his inauguration.

A destroyed house by a rocket launched from a russian airplane in Bakhmur, Donbas, Ukraine.
A house destroyed by a rocket launched from a Russian airplane is seen in Bakhmur, Donbas, Ukraine.
Andoni Lubaki/Sipa USA

Zelensky indicated he might be willing to cede some of eastern Ukraine to Russia to spare the population.

“I believe that no matter what appetite different sections of our population have, the most valuable thing is to save more people, soldiers,” Zelensky said at a news briefing Saturday.

“We have broken the backbone of one of the strongest armies in the world. We’ve already done that. Including psychologically. They won’t get back on their feet for the next few years,” Zelensky said. “But let’s not forget that all our soldiers also want to live.”

President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky
The conflict “will be bloody, there will be fighting, but it will only definitively end through diplomacy,” Zelensky said.
UKRINFORM/ Ukrinform/Future Publishing via Getty Images

The fall of Mariupol saw the surrender of more than 2,600 soldiers who were holding out in the massive Azovstal steel plant. They were taken to a POW camp in the eastern part of the country, raising concerns they might be put before tribunals to further Russian propoganda about the unit, which it claims includes neo-Nazis.

Russia separately banned 963 more American citizens from entering the country, including former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and actor Morgan Freeman, who once appeared in a video criticizing Russia, along with Biden and current Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, Tass News Agency said.

Also Saturday, Russian Transportation Minister Vitaly Savelyev said Western sanctions against Russia have “practically broken all” logistics corridors used by the country for trade, TASS reported. 

“We are forced to look for new logistics corridors together,” Savelyev said. Moscow is looking into alternative trade routes such as one linking India with Central Asian countries, Russia and Europe through Iran, he said. 

Smoke rises from the Metallurgical Combine Azovstal in Mariupol during shelling,
Smoke rises from the Metallurgical Combine Azovstal in Mariupol during shelling.
AP Photo/Alexei Alexandrov

While Ukraine could win on the battlefield, the war will only end “at the negotiating table,” Zelensky said, according to The BBC.

The conflict “will be bloody, there will be fighting, but it will only definitively end through diplomacy,” Zelensky said.

“No one just gives anything away, but there is land that they entered and occupied, and there are some areas where they have advanced very far in,” Zelensky continued. “To reach the line that existed before [February] 24th without unnecessary losses, I think … that would be a victory for our country.”

“We have broken the backbone of one of the strongest armies in the world. We’ve already done that. Including psychologically. They won’t get back on their feet for the next few years,” Zelensky said. “But let’s not forget that all our soldiers also want to live.”

Meanwhile, Russia continued to batter multiple cities in the eastern part of the country, including Ukraine’s second largest city, Kharkiv, where the mayor said in a Telegram post thousands of buildings have been damaged or destroyed including nearly 170 schools, along with hospitals and other civilian infrastructure.

In Sevierodonetsk, normally home to about 100,000 people, several thousand people remained to bear an unceasing onslaught, including many elderly who refuse to abandon their homes.

 About 50 miles west of Sevierodonetsk, the town of Sviatohirsk was also shelled early Saturday, destroying a local school built in 2016 with help from the UN and Japan.

Russia’s Gazprom also stopped delivering gas to Finland. The shutdown comes days after Finland and Sweden applied for admission into NATO.

Russia claimed it was cutting off the fuel deliveries because Finland refused to pay in rubles, which it demanded because of Western sanctions.

With Post Wires

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