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Missile strikes in Ukraine show Putin 'must be stopped,' Biden says

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LA Post: Missile strikes in Ukraine show Putin 'must be stopped,' Biden says
Reuters
Andrea Shalal
December 29, 2023

By Andrea Shalal

CHRISTIANSTED, St. Croix (Reuters) - U.S. President Joe Biden on Friday called Russia's latest missile barrage on Ukraine a "stark reminder" that Russian President Vladimir Putin remained committed to destroying Ukraine and said "he must be stopped."

Biden, in a statement issued during his vacation in St. Croix, said the overnight attack, which killed 31 civilians and wounded over 120 across Ukraine, was the largest aerial assault since Moscow launched its invasion in February 2022.

"It is a stark reminder to the world that, after nearly two years of this devastating war, Putin’s objective remains unchanged. He seeks to obliterate Ukraine and subjugate its people. He must be stopped," Biden said.

Biden said Ukraine used air defense systems that the United States and its allies and partners had provided to successfully intercept and destroy many of the missiles and drones launched by Russia, and he urged Congress to approve continued aid.

"Unless Congress takes urgent action in the new year, we will not be able to continue sending the weapons and vital air defense systems Ukraine needs to protect its people. Congress must step up and act without any further delay," Biden said.

The United States on Thursday said it would provide up to $250 million in arms and equipment to Ukraine in a final aid package this year, as top officials continued to urge lawmakers to approve another $61 billion in aid to the war-torn country.

Republicans are refusing to approve the assistance requested by Biden unless Democrats agree to tighten security along the U.S.-Mexico border.

The White House has warned that without the additional appropriation U.S. aid will run out by the end of the year for Ukraine's fight to retake territory occupied by Russian forces.

Congress has approved more than $110 billion for Ukraine since Russia's invasion, but it has not approved any funds since Republicans took control of the House of Representatives from Democrats in January 2023.

Biden said the stakes of the fight extended far beyond Ukraine to the entire NATO alliance and the security of Europe, and warned of risks to the United States.

"When dictators and autocrats are allowed to run roughshod in Europe, the risk rises that the United States gets pulled in directly," he said. "We cannot let our allies and partners down. We cannot let Ukraine down. History will judge harshly those who fail to answer freedom’s call."

Separately, Biden's national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, who is also in St. Croix, said he discussed reports of a missile temporarily entering Polish airspace with Polish Secretary of State Jacek Siewiera in a call on Friday, the White House said.

Sullivan expressed the United States’ solidarity with Poland, and pledged technical assistance as needed. He said Biden is following the issue closely.

(Reporting by Andrea Shalal; additional reporting by Jasper Ward and Ismail Shakil; Editing by Caitlin Webber and Leslie Adler)

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