Biden sends another $800 million in military aid to Ukraine, unveils refugee program

President Joe Biden announced on Thursday additional military aid that he said would ensure a steady flow of weapons and equipment into Ukraine over the next few weeks.

  • The administration has sent nearly $4 billion in aid to Ukraine since Biden took office.
  • Ukrainian refugees can come to the U.S. under a new program that launches Monday.
  • Biden's ban on Russian ships in U.S. ports follows EU sanctions.

WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden committed $800 million in additional military aid to Ukraine on Thursday and rolled out a process to welcome Ukrainian refugees displaced by the war, beginning next week.

Biden said he will ban Russian ships from U.S. ports, following the European Union and other countries that imposed a similar ban.

In the White House's Roosevelt Room, Biden said the military aid will ensure a steady flow of weapons and equipment into Ukraine over the next few weeks and send an unmistakable message to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

"He will never succeed in dominating and occupying all of Ukraine," Biden said.

'Speak softly and carry a large Javelin': Biden unveils latest $800M military aid package. Ukraine updates

The latest infusion of security assistance, which matches the amount committed last week, includes 72 howitzers, 72 trucks to tow them, 121 Phoenix Ghost drones, other heavy artillery and 144,000 rounds of ammunition. Biden said the aid will "further augment Ukraine's ability" to fight Russian attacks in the eastern Donbas region.

“We're in a critical window now of time, where they're going to set the stage for the next phase of this war,” Biden said.

President Joe Biden announces an additional $800 million in military aid to Ukraine on April 21.

Biden: 'No evidence' Mariupol has fallen

The assistance brings the total U.S. aid to Ukraine during Biden’s presidency to about $4 billion. That includes $3.4 billion since Putin invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24. Biden said he's nearly exhausted the level of aid authorized by Congress last month and will seek approval of a supplemental budget request.

Before his remarks, Biden met with Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal at the White House. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has repeatedly pushed Western allies, particularly the United States, to provide more aid amid allegations that Putin directed war crimes and genocide. 

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Biden said his administration is "not sitting on" funds for Ukraine approved by Congress, which are going directly to the "front lines of freedom." He said not all assistance is publicized.

“Sometimes we will speak softly and carry a large Javelin, because we’re sending a lot of those in as well,” Biden said, referring to surface-to-air Javelin missiles and playing off a famous line from President Theodore Roosevelt.

Biden announced $500 million in direct economic assistance to the Ukrainian government.

Biden pushed back against Putin's claims of victory in the heavily contested Ukrainian city of Mariupol in the Donbas region.

"It’s questionable whether he does control Mariupol,” said Biden, who departed on a presidential swing through Portland, Oregon, and Seattle after his speech. “There’s no evidence yet that Mariupol has completely fallen.”

Smoke rises from a plant in Mariupol after a Russian attack.

Ukrainian refugee program kicks off next week

Ukrainians displaced by the war will be allowed to seek temporary refuge in the USA under a program the Biden administration announced Thursday.

Biden promised the United States would accept up to 100,000 Ukrainian refugees who fled their homeland after it was invaded by Russian forces.

Starting next week, U.S. citizens and groups will be able to apply to sponsor Ukrainian refugees under the Uniting for Ukraine program. They can apply through an online portal that will be available on the Department of Homeland Security website starting Monday.

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Ukrainians who are given permission to travel to the USA under the program will undergo a streamlined approval process that will allow them to live and work here for up to two years.

To qualify, they must have been a resident of Ukraine as of Feb. 11 and have a U.S sponsor. They will be required to undergo a background check, pass biometric screenings, complete vaccinations and meet other public health requirements.

Sponsors must undergo background screenings to make sure they are able to support the refugees and won’t exploit or abuse them.

Biden said the program will complement legal pathways available to Ukrainians, such as immigrant visas and refugee processing, and will provide an expedited channel for Ukrainians who have a U.S. sponsor to secure legal migration from Europe to the USA.

"This program will be fast, it will be streamlined and it will ensure the United States honors its commitment to the people of Ukraine," he said.

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Ukrainian refugees wait for Customs and Border Protection authorities to allow them to enter the USA at the San Ysidro Port of Entry in Tijuana, Baja California, on April 5.

The vetting process for refugees is expected to take about a week, said senior officials with the Department of Homeland Security and the National Security Council, who described the program on the condition of anonymity.

It has taken weeks for the administration to lay out a plan to accept the refugees – leaving thousands in limbo as they tried to map their next move.

The delay led to some Ukrainians heading to the U.S.-Mexican border to seek asylum. Title 42, which allows U.S. border agents to expel asylum seekers to Mexico to prevent the spread of coronavirus, is still in place. There are exceptions to the policy, and some Ukrainians were processed to come to the USA.

Ukrainians and southern border:Refugees from Ukraine wait in Tijuana for permission to enter US

The United States has processed almost 15,000 undocumented Ukrainian nationals over the past three months, most of them entering the country through the border with Mexico, the homeland security officials said.

Last month, 5,071 Ukrainian people were detained at land, sea or air borders, according to data from Customs and Border Protection. That was up from 1,146 Ukrainians who were detained in February. Many of the Ukrainians who were detained last month came through the U.S. southern border.

This year, the administration announced deportation protections for Ukrainians already in the USA.

The Department of Homeland Security granted temporary protected status to Ukrainians in early March. On Monday, the agency extended eligibility for the program, allowing those who arrived by April 11 to apply for TPS, which allows them to stay for 18 months and apply for work permits.

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Russian ship ban aimed at stripping benefits of 'international' economy

Biden's ban on Russian ships from entering U.S. ports follows a series of escalating economic sanctions on Russia in retaliation for the war in Ukraine.

No ship that sails under the Russian flag or that is owned or operated by Russian interests will be allowed to dock in a U.S. port or access U.S. shores, Biden said.

Biden said the ban would further deny Russia “the benefits of the international economic system that they so enjoyed in the past.”

This month, the European Union banned Russian vessels and Russian-operated vessels from accessing ports in its 27-nation bloc but provided exemptions for agricultural and food products, humanitarian aid and energy. The United Kingdom and Canada also banned Russian ships from their ports.

Joey Garrison and Michael Collins cover the White House. Follow Garrison on Twitter @joeygarrison and Collins @mcollinsNEWS.

Contributing: Rebecca Morin