Biden says Navalny’s death brings urgency to the need for more aid for Ukraine

16 February 2024, 23:34

Biden. Picture: PA

The president said that no matter the cause, he holds Russian President Vladimir Putin responsible for Alexei Navalny’s death.

President Joe Biden said that the apparent death of Russian anti-corruption activist Alexei Navalny brings new urgency to the need for Congress to approve tens of billions of dollars for Ukraine to stave off Moscow’s invasion.

Speaking at the White House, Mr Biden said that no matter the cause, he holds Russian President Vladimir Putin responsible for Mr Navalny’s death.

He added, “I hope to God it helps” push US officials to send more aid to Ukraine.

Mr Biden said that “history is watching” lawmakers in the House, which hasn’t moved to take up a Senate-passed bill that would send funds and armaments to Ukraine, whose troops US officials say are running out of critical munitions.

“The failure to support Ukraine at this critical moment will never be forgotten,” Mr Biden said. “And the clock is ticking. This has to happen. We have to help now.”

Mr Biden said the US had not confirmed Mr Navalny’s death in a Russian prison above the Arctic Circle, but that he had no reason to doubt it either.

The president sharply criticised House Republicans for letting the chamber enter a two-week recess without moving on the Ukraine funding.

“What are they thinking — my God,” Mr Biden said. “This is bizarre and it’s just reinforcing all of the concern — I won’t say panic but real concern — about the United States being a responsible ally.”

Poland Russia Navalny Obit
Mr Biden added that the US has not confirmed Mr Navalny’s death but that he had no reason to doubt Russian reports (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)

Republican Speaker Mike Johnson earlier this week said the House won’t be “rushed” to pass the aid, but on Friday he said Mr Putin was “a vicious dictator and the world knows he is likely directly responsible for the sudden death of his most prominent political opponent”.

Mr Johnson said in a statement: “We must be clear that Putin will be met with united opposition.

“As Congress debates the best path forward to support Ukraine, the United States and our partners must be using every means available to cut off Putin’s ability to fund his unprovoked war in Ukraine and aggression against the Baltic states.”

Lawmakers who have pushed for the Ukraine aid blamed the Republicans, who have sided with former President Donald Trump as he has urged its defeat.

Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries said, “Shame on the pro-Putin MAGA extremists who continue to block bipartisan national security legislation in the House,” referencing Mr Trump’s “Make American Great Again” slogan.

North Carolina Senator Thom Tillis, one of 22 Republicans who voted for the Senate-passed Ukraine aid package, said that Mr Navalny laid down his life fighting for a country he loved and that “Putin is a murderous, paranoid dictator”.

Mr Tillis posted on X: “History will not be kind to those in America who make apologies for Putin and praise Russian autocracy.

“Nor will history be kind to America’s leaders who stay silent because they fear backlash from online pundits.”

Mr Biden, eyeing a likely general election rematch against Mr Trump this November, said American presidents from Harry Truman on are “rolling over in their graves” hearing Mr Trump’s comments suggesting that the US might not defend its Nato allies who fail to meet their defence spending targets if attacked.

“As long as I’m president, America stands by its sacred commitment to our allies,” Mr Biden said.

By Press Association

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