As Russia has intensified its attack in eastern Ukraine, where the open terrain favors artillery battles, the United States is committing to sending more military aid to help Ukrainian troops.
President Joe Biden announced an additional $150 million in aid, to include 25,000 155mm artillery rounds, counter-artillery radars, jamming equipment, and field equipment and spare parts.
But he said the latest round of aid has “nearly exhausted” the amount approved by Congress for Ukraine, and urged the passage of an additional $33 billon in military, economic and humanitarian assistance.
“We will continue to provide Ukraine the arms its forces are effectively using to defend their country and the freedom of their fellow citizens,” said Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
Ukrainian forces are preparing for a potential increase in Russian attacks after the weekend, when Russia will celebrate Victory Day, the anniversary of the Soviet Union’s defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II.
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►Jill Biden on Friday thanked US troops to Romania for serving as a check against Russian aggression as she opened a two-country European trip to learn about the refugee crisis caused by Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
►The UN called for the reopening of ports in Odesa so that food produced in Ukraine can help fill shortages in countries that depend on imports of grain. “Right now, Ukraine’s grain silos are full. At the same time, 44 million people around the world are marching towards starvation,” World Food Program Executive Director David Beasley said.
►President Joe Biden will participate in a virtual meeting Sunday morning with G7 nations to discuss Russia’s war in Ukraine, including potential new sanctions on Russia.
►Ukraine’s deputy prime minister said Friday that 41 more Ukrainians were released that day in a prisoner swap with Russia. Iryna Vereshchuk wrote on Telegram that the 41 people who’ve been returned include 28 military personnel and 13 civilians.
50 more evacuated from steel plant
Another evacuation mission Friday brought an 50 more civilians out of the Azovstal steel plant, the last Ukrainian holdout in the otherwise Russian-controlled city of Mariupol. Officials said the effort will continue Saturday.
Russian troops have increased their shelling on the plant. While Ukrainian troops and potentially more civilians remain holed up in the underground bunkers at the plant, Russian forces have breached the mill’s compound in recent days.
The UN and the International Committee of the Red Cross have completed two successful evacuations so far, but many more civilians have remained behind. Some who left the plant chose to stay in Mariupol to search for loved ones, while others including the elderly were physically unable to leave the bunkers.
Teen killed while trying to evacuate animals from zoo
A 15-year-old boy was reportedly killed while trying to help evacuate animals at a zoo in the embattled city of Kharkiv.
The Feldman Ecopark said in a Facebook post that two other employees were killed in the artillery fire, and said the boy is the sixth employee or volunteer killed since Russia’s invasion.
“He helped his parents to feed and evacuate the animals. The blessed memory of the hero will always remain in our hearts,” the zoo said in a statement.
Last month two employees who stayed in Ukraine to help feed the animals were found shot to death, the zoo also said.
The zoo has come under heavy shelling, necessitating the evacuation of rare and large animals since Russia moved in on Kharkiv, according to United Press International. About 100 animals have been killed.
UN Security Council releases first statement on ‘dispute,’ avoids Russian veto
The United Nations Security Council has unanimously adopted its first statement since Russia’s military action began Feb. 24, expressing “strong support” for Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ efforts to find a peaceful solution to the “dispute” in Ukraine.
The short statement adopted at a brief meeting Friday does not mention a “war,” “conflict” or “invasion” as many council members call Russia’s ongoing military action, or a “special military operation” as Moscow refers to it. Russia, which holds veto power in the council, has blocked all previous attempts to adopt a statement or resolution.
Instead, the statement “expresses deep concern regarding the maintenance of peace and security of Ukraine” and “recalls that all member states have undertaken, under the Charter of the United Nations, the obligation to settle their international disputes by peaceful means.”
Contributing: The Associated Press
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Live Ukraine-Russia updates: Biden announces additional military aid