Zelenskyy cancels virtual address to US senators amid impasse over Ukraine funding

Senate leader Chuck Schumer cited "last-minute" matter as a reason

AP09_22_2023_000072A (File) President Joe Biden meets with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in the Oval Office of the White House | AP

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has cancelled a planned virtual address to US lawmakers where he was expected to advocate for continued military support. However, the President will appear Wednesday before a virtual meeting of leaders from the Group of Seven leading industrialised nations.

"Zelenskyy by the way could not make it to — something happened at the last minute — to our briefing," Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a press conference on Tuesday.

Zelenskyy was planning to call on lawmakers to vote on a bill that includes billions of dollars in new aid for Ukraine. This came as the Office of Management and Budget Director Shalanda Young warned in a letter to congressional leaders on Monday that by the end of the year, the United States will no longer have the funds to send weapons and assistance to Ukraine. Ukraine "will not be able to keep fighting,” Young said, noting that the U.S. also has run out of money for propping up Ukraine’s economy. 

"I want to be clear: Without congressional action, by the end of the year we will run out of resources to procure more weapons and equipment for Ukraine, to provide equipment from U.S. military stocks," she wrote. "There is no magical pot of funding available to meet this moment."

Zelensky was also expected to brief the senators on the situation in his country as Ukraine's months-long counteroffensive faces risks of failure without US aid. 

US President Joe Biden has advocated for Congress to release $106 billion to fund ambitious plans for Ukraine, Israel and U.S. border security. But, the efforts face hindrances with many Republican senators openly coming out against funding for Ukraine. Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mike Johnson, took to X to call for accountability. 

"The Biden Administration has failed to substantively address any of my conference's legitimate concerns about the lack of a clear strategy in Ukraine, a path to resolving the conflict, or a plan for adequately ensuring accountability for aid provided by American taxpayers," he wrote on social media.

The Congress already has allocated USD111 billion to assist Ukraine, including USD67 billion in military procurement funding, USD27 billion for economic and civil assistance and USD10 billion for humanitarian aid. Young wrote that all of it, other than about 3 per cent of the military funding, had been depleted by mid-November. 

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