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US Pledges $500 Mln Economic Aid, $800 Mln Additional Security Assistance To Ukraine

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President Joe Biden has announced an additional $800 million package of security assistance to Ukraine to further augment Ukraine's ability to fight Russian forces in the eastern Donbas region.

This is in addition to another $800 million package that Biden pledged last week.

Separately, Biden announced Thursday that the United States will provide an additional $500 million in direct economic assistance to the Ukrainian government.

This brings the total U.S. economic support for Ukraine to $1 billion in the past two months.

"This is money the government can help use to help stabilize their economy, to support communities that have been devastated by the Russian onslaught, and pay the brave workers that continue to provide essential services to the people of Ukraine," Biden said at a news conference after holding talks with the Ukrainian Prime Minister.

Biden also announced a new program "Unite for Ukraine" — to enable Ukrainians seeking refuge to come directly from Europe to the United States.

This new humanitarian parole program will complement the existing legal pathways available to Ukrainians, including immigrant visas and refugee processing.

It will provide an expedient channel for secure, legal migration from Europe to the United States for Ukrainians who have a U.S. sponsor, such as a family or an NGO.

As part of Washington's latest measure to ratchet up the pressure on the Putin regime and further isolate Russia on the world stage, Biden announced that Russian-affiliated ships will be banned from entering U.S. ports.

"This is yet another critical step we're taking in concert with our partners in the European Union, the United Kingdom, and Canada and — further to deny Russia the benefits of the international economic system that they so enjoyed in the past, " Biden told reporters.

The U.S. military package includes heavy artillery weapons including 72 Howitzers and 144,000 rounds of ammunition to go with those Howitzers. It also includes new more tactical drone system designed by the US Air Force called the "Phoenix Ghost."

Meanwhile, Russia's defense ministry said in its latest update that 58 military targets in Ukraine were attacked overnight, and Russian forces captured 40 villages in east Ukraine on Thursday.

Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed that Russian forces have taken control of the besieged southeastern port city of Mariupol, but ordered them not to storm the Azovstal steel plant, Ukraine's last stronghold in the city, where hundreds of Ukrainian troops are hiding out.

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