Ukrainians are waiting, nervously, to see whether the United States will provide crucial aid

From the bloody trenches of the battlefield to the crowded cities hit by Russian bombing, millions of Ukrainians waited in nervous anticipation as the U.S. Congress prepared, after months of delay, to decide whether America would resume providing their country with a fundamental military support.

Private Pavlo Kaliuk, who fought to slow the Russian advance after the fall of the town of Avdiivka in eastern Ukraine earlier this year, was on his way to the funeral of a fallen soldier when he was reached by phone Friday.

“I'm walking and thinking that maybe it's my friend who died in the war, who is up there in heaven now, who will help the world and the United States support Ukraine,” he said.

Ukraine cannot rely on divine intervention; Instead, he is counting on the House of Representatives to approve a $60 billion aid package on Saturday.

President Volodymyr Zelensky made the stakes clear, saying this week that without American support his country could not win the war. William J. Burns, the CIA director, was even more blunt when asked what would happen if American military assistance did not resume.

“I think there is a very real risk that the Ukrainians could lose on the battlefield by the end of 2024, or at least put Putin in a position to dictate the terms of a political settlement,” he said in a commentary Thursday. at the Bush Center Leadership Forum in Dallas.

Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine's foreign minister, said there was “no plan B” if the aid measure failed.

“There has been so much controversy and debate around this bill – and there will be more – so we're just waiting for the outcome,” he told reporters.

At a meeting in Capri on Friday, representatives of the G7, which includes the world's richest democracies, vowed to find a way to support Ukraine and, in particular, strengthen Ukraine's air defense capabilities to save lives civilians and protect the country's infrastructure.

Jens Stoltenberg, NATO's secretary general, said the military alliance had collected data on available air defense systems and was working to redeploy some of them in Ukraine.

“It is now necessary to ensure a more robust and institutionalized framework for support for Ukraine,” he told reporters in Italy.

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken, also speaking in Italy, said: “Putin thinks he can wait longer than Ukraine and its support.”

“The message coming from Capri is: it can't,” said the secretary.

Congress has not approved a new military support package for Ukraine since October. While the Senate overwhelmingly approved a bill that included a $60 billion package for Ukraine along with assistance for Israel and Taiwan, it stalled in the GOP-controlled House. Republican Speaker Mike Johnson has split the package into a series of bills in an attempt to circumvent members of his own party who are staunchly opposed to helping Ukraine.

If the tactic works and the measure is approved, Pentagon officials said military supplies could begin flowing into Ukraine immediately.

As the debate in Washington has played out over the past six months, the war's momentum has shifted decisively in Moscow's favor. The civilian death toll is also rising as Ukraine runs out of air defense interceptor missiles to defend against daily Russian air assaults on critical infrastructure in densely populated cities.

On Friday, at least seven civilians, including two children, were killed in rocket attacks in the Dnipro region, including one near the main train station in the city of Dnipro. Four more civilians were killed in the shelling of villages near the front line in eastern Ukraine, officials said.

Kuleba, the foreign minister, called US aid “a matter of life and death,” adding: “And in a broader sense, it is a question of Ukraine's survival.”

In interviews with soldiers and civilians across the country over the course of two years of war, Ukrainians often say, with deep conviction, that their struggle is part of a larger global struggle. Failure to confront and defeat Russia now, they say, will mean more bloodshed later, and American assistance is not an act of charity but a strategic and financial interest of the United States.

“Our planet is very small and we all depend on each other,” Private Kaliuk said. “Those who thought this war was not theirs were wrong.”

Pavlo Velychko, an officer with the territorial defense brigade fighting near the Russian border, said renewed American support would do more than provide critically needed advanced ammunition and weapons systems.

This would boost morale at a time when Ukrainian forces are stretched and exhausted.

“The positive result of the vote will be felt by everyone in the armed forces,” he said. “From soldiers to officers”.

Meanwhile, the Ukrainians have made it clear that they will continue to fight.

The Ukrainian military said Friday it had destroyed a Russian Tu-22M3 long-range strategic bomber involved in Friday's attacks, which would be the first successful destruction of a strategic bomber in the air during a combat mission.

While the claim could not be independently confirmed, the Russian governor of the Stavropol Territory confirmed that a bomber crashed in a field about 185 miles from Ukraine.

It was unclear what weapon Ukraine might have used to shoot down the attacker; Kiev has worked to expand its arsenal of long-range weapons and grow its domestic weapons industry.

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