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Biden announces $800 million in new aid after Zelensky plea

President Biden on Wednesday, March 16, announced new military assistance for Ukraine that will include anti-aircraft defenses, drones and other weaponry, offering fresh U.S. support in the wake of an urgent plea from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Biden announced $800 million in new assistance for Ukraine, which, paired with $200 million authorized over the weekend, brings the total new aid for the country to $1 billion over the past week.

The new aid will help provide 800 anti-aircraft systems to combat Russian planes; 9,000 anti-armor systems to help destroy Russian tanks and armored vehicles; 7,000 small arms such as machine guns and shotguns; and a total of 20 million rounds that includes artillery and mortar.

“I want to be honest with you: this could be a long and difficult battle,” Biden said.

“We are united in our abhorrence of Putin’s depraved onslaught, and we’re going to continue to have [Ukraine’s] backs as they fight for their freedom, their democracy, their very survival,” Biden added. “And we’re going to give Ukraine the arms to fight and defend themselves through all the difficult days ahead.”

Biden’s speech came hours after Zelensky delivered a personal and emotional plea to the United States Congress asking for a no-fly zone over his country and more assistance to beat back Russian attacks on civilians and major cities.

Zelensky, who spoke in both Ukrainian and English during his address, invoked Pearl Harbor and the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in urging Americans to consider what the toll has been for Ukrainians to see their cities come under relentless attack from Russian missile strikes.

Specifically, Zelensky called for sending warplanes to Ukraine after requests to the U.S. to help directly send Soviet-era fighter jets to the country fell through over concerns by the Biden administration that such a move would escalate the fighting to a conflict between Russia and the U.S. and NATO.

Zelensky also addressed Biden directly at one point, saying “being the leader of the world means to be the leader of peace.”

The Biden administration has for weeks steadily ramped up sanctions on Russia, imposing penalties on major banks, oligarchs, Russian officials and economic sectors. The White House last week banned imports of Russian gas, the latest effort to squeeze Russia’s economy.

But the White House and Pentagon have been adamantly opposed to measures that could be seen as getting into a direct war with Russia, ruling out establishing a no-fly zone because it could mean shooting down Russian planes.

And officials have been consistent that Biden opposes putting U.S. troops on the ground in Ukraine, refusing to set any “red lines” for what might change the calculus.

Biden did not respond to questions during Wednesday’s event about what it would take to send fighter jets from Poland to Ukraine.

This article originally appeared on TheHill.

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