Biden Administration Blames Congress for Fall of Avdiivka in Ukraine

Biden Administration Blames Congress for Fall of Avdiivka in Ukraine

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As a bill with $60.1 billion in military aid for Kyiv languishes in the House, a spokeswoman pointed to Avdiivka’s fate as “the cost of congressional inaction.”

Ukrainian soldiers firing in the direction of Avdiivka on Wednesday. The military was forced to withdraw from the city early Saturday.Credit…Tyler Hicks/The New York TimesThe Biden administration said Saturday that the Ukrainian military withdrawal from Avdiivka was the result of Congress failing to provide additional money to support Kyiv’s war effort.

Ukraine ordered the withdrawal from the eastern city of Avdiivka before dawn on Saturday, the country’s first major battlefield loss since the fall of Bakhmut last year.

“This is the cost of congressional inaction,” said Adrienne Watson, a spokeswoman for the National Security Council. “The Ukrainians continue to fight bravely, but they are running low on supplies.”

The Senate passed an emergency aid bill including $60.1 billion for Ukraine this week, but the measure faces an uncertain fate in the House of Representatives, where Speaker Mike Johnson has indicated he does not intend to put it to a vote. The Biden administration has spent months pushing for additional funding, arguing that Ukraine is running out of artillery, air defense weaponry and other munitions.

Ms. Watson said the House needed to pass the Senate measure.

“It is critical that the House approve additional Ukraine funding without delay so that we can provide Ukraine with the artillery ammunition and other critical equipment they need to defend their country,” she said.

Supporters of the aid are exploring ways to force a vote on the Senate bill, which also includes aid to Israel and Taiwan as well as humanitarian assistance to Palestinians in a package totaling $95 billion, or to create a package that might win Mr. Johnson’s approval.

On Thursday, John F. Kirby, a senior national security official, said Ukraine’s struggles in Avdiivka were the result of shortages of artillery ammunition.

The U.S. could not send additional artillery shells to Ukraine because Congress had not authorized more funding, Mr. Kirby said. As a result, Ukraine’s forces were not able to successfully counter the waves of troops Russia was sending into the city.

Mr. Kirby said that without additional aid to Ukraine, the Russian advances being seen in Avdiivka would be repeated in other parts of the front. American officials have also warned that by March, air defense ammunition supplies will be strained, allowing more Russian missiles and Iranian drones to hit their targets in Kyiv and other population centers.

It is not clear whether the losses in eastern Ukraine will be enough to move Republicans skeptical of sending additional funding to Kyiv. Lawmakers on Capitol Hill have said they have not heard a plan for Ukraine to turn the tide on the battlefield, even if its supplies were replenished.

Administration officials concede that even with more arms, it will be difficult for Ukraine to reclaim all of the land it has lost. But, they added, a well-supplied Ukraine could put more pressure on Russia and eventually be in a better position for peace negotiations.

A correction was made on 

Feb. 17, 2024

An earlier version of this article misstated the value of a measure passed by the Senate to send aid to Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan, as well as to provide humanitarian assistance for the Palestinians. It is a $95 billion package, including $60.1 billion in military aid for Ukraine. It is not $60.1 billion in total.

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