U.S. Congress OKs $40 billion in aid for Ukraine; Russia says it’s sent 900 Ukrainian

U.S. approves 10th security assistance package for Ukraine worth $100 million

Ukrainian servicemen taking part in the armed conflict with Russia-backed separatists in Donetsk region of the country attend the handover ceremony of military heavy weapons and equipment in Kiev on November 15, 2018.

Sergei Supinsky | AFP | Getty Images

The Pentagon announced the authorization of a tenth U.S. security assistance package of up to $100 million for Ukraine.

“Capabilities in this package are tailored to meet critical Ukrainian needs for today’s fight as Russian forces continue their offensive in eastern Ukraine,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said during a daily press briefing.

The package includes: 

  • 18 155mm Howitzers
  • 18 tactical vehicles to tow the 155mm Howitzers
  • Three AN/TPQ-36 counter-artillery radars
  • Field equipment and spare parts

 — Amanda Macias

Zelenskyy praises passage of $40 billion U.S. aid package

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy addresses South Korean parliament via video link, as Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues, in Kyiv, Ukraine April 11, 2022. 

Ukrainian Presidential Press Service | Reuters

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy praised the passage of the $40 billion security assistance package, the largest U.S. aid package for Ukraine thus far.

Zelenskyy wrote on Twitter that “$40 billion is a significant contribution to the restoration of peace and security in Ukraine, Europe and the world.”

President Joe Biden is slated to sign the bill after the Senate passed the measure with an 86 to 11 vote. The bill will finance defense equipment, refugee assistance as well as emergency food aid for Ukraine.

 — Amanda Macias

U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff speaks with Russian counterpart

Joint Chiefs Chairman General Mark Milley testifies before the Senate Armed Services Committee during a hearing on “Department of Defense’s Budget Requests for FY2023”, on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., April 7, 2022. 

Sarah Silbiger | Reuters

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff U.S. Army Gen. Mark Milley spoke with his Russian counterpart via phone, the Pentagon confirmed.

“The military leaders discussed several security-related issues of concern and agreed to keep the lines of communication open,” Milley’s spokesman U.S. Army Col. Dave Butler wrote in a summary of the call with Chief of Russian General Staff Gen. Valery Gerasimov.

“In accordance with past practice, the specific details of their conversation will be kept private,” Butler added.

The call comes a week after Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin held a phone call with his Russian counterpart, the first known discussion since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

 — Amanda Macias

Senate passes $40 billion assistance package for Ukraine

Ukrainian soldiers are seen with new military weapons in Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine on May 14, 2022.

Diego Herrera Carcedo | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

The Senate passed a $40 billion military and humanitarian assistance package for Ukraine, the largest aid package for the war-weary country to date.

The Senate voted 86 to 11 on Thursday, effectively passing the bill to President Joe Biden for his final signature.

The bill, which passed in the House on May 10, provides funding for defense equipment, migration and refugee assistance and emergency food assistance.

 — Amanda Macias

Davos returns from pandemic, but without Russian guests

The World Economic Forum (WEF) is returning to Davos in May, after cancelling previous meetings because of the pandemic. However, there are a lot of Covid measures in place.

Fabrice Coffrini | Afp | Getty Images

After a nearly 2-1/2-year hiatus because of the coronavirus pandemic, the Swiss town of Davos is set to again host global elites from business, government and activist groups for the World Economic Forum.

Russia’s war in Ukraine and climate change worries are expected to be on many minds at the event starting Monday as concern over the pandemic ebbs.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy plans to pipe in virtually. The biggest delegation of top Ukrainian government officials to leave the country since the war started are set to attend Davos in person, organizers said. In the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, forum hosts invited no Russian officials or business leaders this year.

“I’m positive that that was the right decision,” forum president Borge Brende said during a news conference Wednesday. “We do hope, though, that Russia will follow a different path … in the years to come, to start to stick to the U.N. Charter and to their international obligations.”

— Associated Press

Biden says Sweden and Finland have complete support from U.S. to join NATO

US President Joe Biden (C) welcomes Finnish President Sauli Niinisto (L) and Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson to the White House in Washington, DC, on May 19, 2022.

Mandel Ngan | AFP | Getty Images

President Joe Biden, flanked by the leaders of Sweden and Finland, said both nations have the “full backing” of the United States in their bid to join NATO.

Biden’s remarks come on the heels of filed applications by both Sweden and Finland to join the world’s most powerful alliance.

Both Finland and Sweden already meet many of the requirements to be a NATO member, like having a functioning democratic political system, willingness to provide economic transparency and the ability to make military contributions to NATO missions.

However, all 30 NATO members must give unanimous approval for a country to be accepted into the alliance.

 — Amanda Macias

NATO increases air policing flights over eastern flank

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and Denmark’s Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen address a joint press conference on the sidelines of a meeting at Kastellet in Copenhagen, Denmark, on May 19, 2022.

Martin Sylvest | AFP | Getty Images

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg praised Denmark’s security contributions to the military alliance during a meeting with Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen. Stoltenberg namely applauded Danish support in air policing missions over NATO member countries in the east.

From fighter jets to surveillance aircraft, the NATO alliance has placed up to 30 aircraft on patrol over the skies of its eastern flank. The additional flights come as Russian officials warn of “grave consequences” for any NATO expansion, including the recent applications from Finland and Sweden to join the military alliance.

So far, the U.S. has committed the most types of aircraft to complement the alliance’s security mission.

Here’s an overview of the NATO member aircraft flying the skies:

NATO’s Eastern Flank Air Domain


UN says at least 3,811 killed in Ukraine since start of war

Servicemen carrying the coffin with the body of 95th Separate Air Assault Brigade officer, Lt Denys Antipov who perished while defending Ukraine’s territorial integrity and independence from Russian invaders near Dovhenke village, Kharkiv Region, follow a priest outside St Nicholas’ Church in Askold’s Grave Park, Kyiv, capital of Ukraine.

Evgen Kotenko | Future Publishing | Getty Images

The United Nations has confirmed 3,811 civilian deaths and 4,278 injuries in Ukraine since Russia invaded its ex-Soviet neighbor on Feb. 24.

The Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights said the death toll in Ukraine is likely higher, because the armed conflict can delay reports.

The international body said most of the civilian casualties recorded were caused by the use of explosive weapons with a wide impact area, including shelling from heavy artillery and multiple launch rocket systems, as well as missiles and airstrikes.

 — Amanda Macias

Hundreds of Azovstal prisoners of war registered, Red Cross says

A screen grab taken from a video released by Russian Defense Ministry shows Ukrainian soldiers are being evacuated from Azovstal steel plant in the port city of Mariupol, Ukraine on May 17, 2022.

Russian Defense Ministry | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

The International Committee of the Red Cross has said it continues to register prisoners of war from the Azovstal steelworks plant in Mariupol, and has registered hundreds already this week.

The ICRC started to register combatants leaving the Azovstal plant on Tuesday, including the wounded, with the operation continuing through to today. It did not give an exact number of how many soldiers had been registered.

The Red Cross noted that it is not transporting POWs to the places where they are held, with Russia reporting yesterday that it had transferred 900 Ukrainian fighters from the plant to a former prison colony. It’s unknown what will happen to the fighters.

The Red Cross says it has been collecting vital personal information from the fighters who have been captured in a bid to help them keep in touch with their families.

In accordance with the mandate given to the Red Cross by the 1949 Geneva Conventions, it said it must have immediate access to all POWs in all places where they are held. The ICRC must be…

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