Biden vows $500mn aid to Ukraine

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Zelensky said on Twitter following the call that he and Biden “shared assessment of the situation on the battlefield and at the negotiating table….reports Asian Lite News

President Joe Biden told his Ukrainian counterpart, Volodymyr Zelensky, that the US will provide Ukraine with $500 million in “direct budgetary aid”, the White House said.

On Wednesday, White House said Biden told Zelensky the US “intends to provide the Ukrainian government with $500 million in direct budgetary aid” on the call, which lasted about an hour to end at 12.03 p.m., according to a pool reporter covering the White House.

“The leaders discussed how the United States is working around the clock to fulfil the main security assistance requests by Ukraine, the critical effects those weapons have had on the conflict, and continue efforts by the US with allies and partners to identify additional capabilities to help the Ukrainian military defend its country,” Xinhua news agency quoted the White House as saying.

Zelensky said on Twitter following the call that he and Biden “shared assessment of the situation on the battlefield and at the negotiating table. Talked about specific defensive support, a new package of enhanced sanctions, macro-financial and humanitarian aid”.

Ukraine sends buses to evacuate Mariupol residents

Ukraine said Thursday it was sending dozens of buses to evacuate civilians from the besieged city of Mariupol after a Russian ceasefire announcement, but dismissed Kremlin promises to scale back attacks on the capital saying forces were simply regrouping to target the east.

Tens of thousands of civilians are trapped in besieged Mariupol with little food, water or medicine, and previous attempts to agree a humanitarian corridor have failed, despite international pressure.

But on Thursday, Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said buses were heading to the city, where Russia said it would observe a ceasefire from 10:00 am (0700 GMT).

“Tonight, we were informed by the International Committee of the Red Cross that Russia is ready to open access” to a humanitarian corridor from Mariupol to Zaporizhzhia via the Russian-controlled port of Berdiansk, she said in video posted on Telegram.

The prospect of an evacuation from the destroyed city came as Russia continued to shell the capital Kyiv and Chernigiv despite having vowed to “reduce” military activity by “a large margin”.

President Volodymyr Zelensky told his war-torn nation to brace for a new Russian onslaught in the eastern Donbas region.

“We don’t believe anyone, not a single beautiful phrase,” Zelensky said in a late-night video message. “There is an accumulation of Russian troops for new strikes in Donbas and we are preparing for it.”

“We will fight for every metre of our land,” he said.

In five weeks of brutal fighting Russian forces have been humbled by dogged Ukrainian resistance, and forced to rethink any ambitions to sack the capital or overthrow the democratically elected government.

Western intelligence agencies have been keen to underscore Russia’s military failings, and to push suggestions that President Vladimir Putin is being misled by his own fearful advisors about battlefield reverses.

“We’ve seen Russian soldiers — short of weapons and morale — refusing to carry out orders, sabotaging their own equipment and even accidentally shooting down their own aircraft,” Britain’s GCHQ spy agency chief Jeremy Fleming on Thursday, after similar claims from the White House.

Citing US intelligence, White House Communications Director Kate Bedingfield said Putin “felt misled by the Russian military”.

Military experts believe that with thousands of Russian troops killed and many thousands more injured, Moscow has no choice but to ditch efforts to advance simultaneously along multiple axes in the north, east and south.

Its focus instead has turned towards the east, and capturing more towns and cities in Donbas including Mariupol — even as the long-range assault on other cities continues.

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