The U.S. will accept 100,000 Ukrainian refugees and others fleeing Russia’s invasion and provide more than $1 billion in new humanitarian aid, the White House announced Thursday.
The funding will pay for food, shelter, clean water, medical supplies and other forms of assistance.
Although many Ukrainian refugees prefer to remain in Europe where they will be closer to family and their homes, the Biden administration is working to expand and develop new programs with a focus on welcoming Ukrainians who have family members in the U.S.
The announcement came as Biden reinforced NATO’s support of Ukraine one month into Russia’s attacks, saying that they are determined “to hold Russia accountable for its brutal war.”
“We had the privilege of hearing directly from President (Volodymyr) Zelenskyy, and we will continue to support him and his government with significant, and increasing, amounts of security assistance to fight Russian aggression and uphold their right to self-defense,” Biden said in a statement following a NATO emergency summit in Brussels, Belgium.
Biden noted the U.S. has provided $1 billion in assistance to Ukraine and, along with American allies, are committed to identifying “additional equipment, including air defense systems, to help Ukraine.” In addition, Biden said officials also discussed NATO’s defense, particularly on the Eastern flank.
Biden said the establishment of four new battle groups in Slovakia, Romania, Bulgaria, and Hungary is a strong signal to Russia that NATO will “defend and protect every inch of NATO territory.”
Russia was also strapped with more sanctions Thursday. The Group of Seven leaders announced plans to restrict the Russian Central Bank’s use of gold in transactions. And the U.S. announced a new round of sanctions targeting defense companies, the head of Russia’s largest bank, and more than 300 members of the Russian State Duma.
In a video address to a NATO summit Thursday, Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy stressed the need for military assistance. Zelenskyy urged NATO to provide Ukraine with “1% of all your planes, 1% of all your tanks.”
“When we will have all this, it will give us, just like you, 100% security,” he said.
Late Wednesday, Zelenskyy called on people worldwide to gather in public Thursday to show support for his embattled country.
“Come to your squares, your streets. Make yourselves visible and heard,” Zelenskyy said in English during an emotional video address late Wednesday that was recorded in the dark near the presidential offices in Kyiv. “Say that people matter. Freedom matters. Peace matters. Ukraine matters.”
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►NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg praised “those in Russia who are bravely speaking out against the war. We hear their voices, they matter.”
►Herman Gref, the head of Russia’s largest bank and a close Putin associate, was among those targeted by sanctions the U.S. Treasury Department unveiled Thursday. As CEO of Sberbank, Gref, 58, also oversees a large number of companies owned by Sberbank in other industries, the department said.
►Ukraine’s navy reported Thursday that it had sunk the Russian ship Orsk in the Sea of Asov near the port city of Berdyansk. It released photos and video of fire and thick smoke coming from the port area. Russia did not immediately comment on the claim.
►The Russian stock market resumed limited trading Thursday under heavy restrictions almost one month after prices plunged and the market was shut down following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
NATO nations agree to strengthen defense forces
NATO leaders agreed Thursday to strengthen its deterrence and defense forces in Europe for the longer-term while increasing support to Ukraine and imposing further costs on Russia, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said after the alliance’s emergency meeting.
“Transatlantic solidarity remains vital,” Stoltenberg tweeted.
In a group statement released after the meeting, NATO leaders said they condemn Russia’s invasion and called on Russian President Vladimir Putin to immediately stop the war and withdraw forces. The leaders also called on Belarus to end its complicity in the war and for China and other countries to stop supporting Russia’s war effort in any way, and to “refrain from any action that helps Russia circumvent sanctions.” NATO also will enhance cyber capabilities and defenses and “substantially increasing” defense spending overall.
Russia to expel more American diplomats, State Department says
Russia has begun the process to expel several American diplomats from the U.S. embassy in Moscow, the State Department said Wednesday.
The department said it received a list of diplomats on who have been declared “persona non grata” by the Russian foreign ministry. It didn’t say how many diplomats were affected by the order, which generally results in the expulsion of those targeted within 72 hours.
The State Department called Wednesday’s move “Russia’s latest unhelpful and unproductive step” in relations between the countries. It urged Russia “to end its unjustified expulsions of U.S. diplomats and staff.”
– Charles Ventura
US has determined Russia committed war crimes, Blinken says
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Wednesday that the United States has determined Russian forces have committed war crimes in Ukraine.
“Today, I can announce that, based on information currently available, the U.S. government assesses that members of Russia’s forces have committed war crimes in Ukraine,” Blinken said in a statement.
He said the assessment is based on “a careful review of available information from public and intelligence sources.”
Blinken said Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion has unleashed “unrelenting violence that has caused death and destruction across Ukraine.” He cited reports of indiscriminate attacks, including those deliberately targeting civilians, among other atrocities.
– Deirdre Shesgreen
Contributing: The Associated Press