Biden says US to begin sending military equipment to Ukraine within 'hours'

Ukraine's Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Wednesday "the key now is speed."

April 24, 2024, 1:40 PM

The U.S. will begin sending military equipment to Ukraine within "a few hours" after the passage of a long-stalled foreign aid package, President Joe Biden announced on Wednesday.

In remarks from the White House, Biden said he had just signed the $95 billion package. He said it will make both America and the world "safer."

"It was a difficult path [to my desk] and it should have been easier, and it should have gotten there sooner," Biden said of the legislation, which was first requested by the administration last fall and seemed all but dead due to GOP-led opposition in the House before the sudden reversal of Speaker Mike Johnson.

"But in the end, we did what America always does: we rose to the moment, came together and we got it done," the president continued. "Now we need to move fast, and we are."

The package provides roughly $61 billion for Ukraine in its fight against Russian invaders, marking the first time in over a year Congress has approved new aid for the war-torn ally. The war has intensified in recent weeks, as more Russian strikes break through with Ukraine's air defenses running low.

In anticipation of the legislation passing, the Biden administration worked up a roughly $1 billion military assistance package for Ukraine, a U.S. official told ABC News on Tuesday.

PHOTO: President Joe Biden speaks after signing the foreign aid bill at the White House, April 24, 2024, in Washington.
President Joe Biden speaks after signing the foreign aid bill at the White House, April 24, 2024, in Washington.
Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden said the supplies being immediately sent to Ukraine includes desperately needed air defense munitions, artillery for rocket systems and armored vehicles. He said the supplies will come from U.S. stockpiles that will be replenished by products made by American companies.

Last month, the United States provided Ukraine with long-range ATACMS missiles at Biden's direction, a senior administration official confirmed to ABC News. The missiles were first used last week in an attack on Crimea and another on Tuesday near Berdyansk, a United States official confirmed to ABC News.

ATACM missiles can generally can reach distances between 70 to 300 kilometers.

"America stands with our friends," Biden said. "We stand up against dictators. We bow to no one, to no one, certainly not Vladimir Putin."

Still, he swiped at "MAGA Republicans" for blocking aid for months while Ukrainian supplies ran low and Russia received help from Iran, North Korea and China.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy thanked Congress for the approval of the "vital aid," and emphasized how urgent the issue is.

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"The key now is speed," he wrote in a statement posted to X. "The speed of implementing agreements with partners on the supply of weapons for our warriors. The speed of eliminating all Russian schemes to circumvent sanctions. The speed of finding political solutions to protect lives from Russian terror. Every leader who does not waste time is a life saver."

PHOTO: An airport vehicle pulls a portion of a shipment of weapons that include Javelin anti-tank missiles and other military hardware delivered on a National Airlines plane by the U.S. military at Boryspil Airport, Jan. 25, 2022, in Boryspil, Ukraine.
An airport vehicle pulls a portion of a shipment of weapons that include Javelin anti-tank missiles and other military hardware delivered on a National Airlines plane by the U.S. military at Boryspil Airport, Jan. 25, 2022, in Boryspil, Ukraine.
Sean Gallup/Getty Images, FILE

The foreign aid package also includes $26 billion for Israel, currently at war with Hamas in Gaza, as well as $8 billion for allies in the Indo-Pacific. Plus, it includes sanctions on Russia, China and Iran as well as a provision to seize Russian assets to assist Ukraine in rebuilding after the war.

Also tucked into the package is a measure to force a U.S. ban of TikTok if its Chinese parent company doesn't divest from the app within a year, though the company is likely to sue to try to block the law.

Speaking on the Israel aid, Biden said his commitment to the defense of the Jewish state remained "ironclad" while also emphasizing the law includes $1 billion in humanitarian assistance for Gaza. He said Israel must ensure the aid, including food, water and medicine, reaches Palestinian civilians "without delay."

However, Biden lamented one thing not being included in the law: border security.

Republican hard-liners and Johnson had initially insisted foreign aid be tied to border policy changes, arguing more resources shouldn't be sent overseas without addressing domestic issues such as immigration. But then Johnson rejected a bipartisan deal that would have changed asylum laws, hired more immigration judges and more. After the compromise fell apart, the Senate passed its own foreign aid bill that languished in the House before Johnson last week forged ahead with individual votes on foreign aid with the help of Democrats.

"It was bipartisan. It should have been included in this bill and I'm determined to get it done for the American people," Biden said on Wednesday of the immigration proposal.

Closing his remarks, Biden thanked the top congressional leaders -- Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, Speaker Johnson and House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries -- for eventually uniting on this issue.

"History will remember this moment for all the talk about how dysfunctional things are in Washington, when you look over the past three years, we see that time and again on the critical issues we've actually come together," he said.

ABC News' Selina Wang and Luis Martinez contributed to this report.

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