After City Falls, Biden Criticizes Congress to Zelensky

Troops defending Avdiivka had to ration ammunition, White House says
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 17, 2024 5:10 PM CST
Biden Blames Congress to Zelensky After Russia Takes City
A Ukrainian soldier sits in his position in Avdiivka, Donetsk region, Ukraine, in August.   (AP Photo/Libkos, File)

Hours after the loss of an eastern Ukrainian city, President Biden told the nation's leader that Congress' failure to approve military aid is to blame. "Ukraine's military was forced to withdraw from Avdiivka after Ukrainian soldiers had to ration ammunition due to dwindling supplies as a result of congressional inaction," a White House readout of the call with President Volodymyr Zelensky said, CNN reports, "resulting in Russia's first notable gains in months." Despite the fact that the aid package is sitting in Congress, Biden reaffirmed to Zelensky the "strong bipartisan support" for Ukraine's defense, per the AP.

Zelensky had warned of his country's arms shortage the same day at the Munich Security Conference, where he met with Vice President Kamala Harris. Russia announced that its forces took complete control of Avdiivka, the site of intense combat for months, on Saturday after Ukrainian troops were withdrawn. The seizure could provide the Russian government a tool for boosting morale, per the AP, as the second anniversary of its invasion approaches. Kremlin spokesman called the city's capture an "important victory," and Tass reported that President Vladimir Putin sent personal congratulations to troops there.

The aid can't pass before the House returns from recess at the end of the month, which Zelensky referenced in a speech in Munich. "Please, everyone, remember that dictators do not go on vacation," he said. "Hatred knows no pause." Biden had been critical about the lawmakers' break in remarks Friday at the White House. "Two weeks, they're walking away," he said, calling it outrageous. Biden added that the decision reinforces "real concern about the United States being a reliable ally." (More Russia-Ukraine war stories.)

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