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Ukraine war latest: US Senate passes Ukraine aid bill, House speaker signals desire to obstruct passage

by The Kyiv Independent news desk February 14, 2024 12:58 AM 6 min read
Speaker of U.S. House Mike Johnson conducts a meeting on Nov. 7, 2023. (Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)
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Key developments on Feb. 13

  • Syrskyi: Ukraine shifts to defense to drain Russian troops
  • US Senate passes $60 billion in aid for Ukraine, but bill faces uphill battle in Republican-led House
  • Military: Ukraine reinforcing Avdiivka as Russia continues its offensive
  • Military intelligence: Russia reportedly buying Starlink in 'Arab countries'
  • Dnipro authorities evacuate hospital, close schools after attack on energy infrastructure

After months of deliberation, U.S. Senate approved a $95 billion funding package in the early morning of Feb. 13 that contained $60 billion in aid for Ukraine.

"Today, we make (Russian President) Vladimir Putin regret the day he questioned America’s resolve. Today, we send a clear bipartisan message of resolve to our allies in NATO," said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.

A day prior, U.S. House Speaker Mike Johnson suggested on Feb. 12 that he would not support a $95 billion foreign aid bill that included funding for Ukraine on the grounds that it did not address the ongoing crisis at the U.S. southern border.

After passing the Senate, the bill is expected to stumble in the Republican-led House where Johnson hinted he won't bring it to the floor for a vote.

The bill also allocated $14 billion in security assistance for Israel, humanitarian aid for Gaza and Ukraine, support for U.S. allies in the Indo-Pacific, and funds to deter attacks by Houthi rebels in the Red Sea.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell urged members of his party to support the bill and not forget the U.S.'s long-time role in maintaining global security.

"I know it’s become quite fashionable in some circles to disregard the global interests we have as a global power," said McConnell. "This is idle work for idle minds. And it has no place in the U.S. Senate."

Senator Mitt Romney, one of the most outspoken opponents of the so-called "MAGA" wing of the Republican Party that is most loyal to former President Donald Trump, said that "if your position is being cheered by Vladimir Putin, it’s time to reconsider your position."

The bill was previously attached to proposed changes to U.S. border policy and additional funding to security, but the broader legislation failed to pass earlier in February.

Trump urged members of his party not to support it or any other effort to pass border security, partially because he plans to make the issue central to his general election campaign.

Elon Musk, Republican senators lobby against passage of Ukraine aid
“There is no way in hell” that Russia could lose the war, Elon Musk told the other participants of the online conversation.

Syrskyi: Ukraine shifts to defense to drain Russian troops

Ukrainian troops have switched from offensive to defensive posture and aim to exhaust advancing Russian forces, Commander-in-Chief Oleksandr Syrskyi said in an interview with German ZDF channel, published on Feb. 13.

According to Syrskyi, Russian troops are attacking along the entire front line. He describes the situation as "difficult" and "quite tense."

The General Staff of Ukraine's Armed Forces reported that as of Feb.13 Russian forces are trying to advance in the Lyman, Bakhmut, Marinka, Avdiivka, and Zaporizhzhia sectors in the east and south of Ukraine.

“The purpose of our defense operation is to exhaust the enemy's forces, and inflict maximum losses, by using our fortifications, technical advantages, drones, electronic warfare, and by holding prepared defense lines,” the general noted.

Who is General Syrskyi, Ukraine’s new chief commander?
Following months of reports about a rift in Ukraine’s political and military leadership, President Volodymyr Zelensky dismissed Commander-in-Chief Valerii Zaluzhnyi, who had led Ukraine’s military since before the full-scale invasion. Zelensky replaced Zaluzhnyi with General Oleksandr Syrskyi, who…

Military: Ukraine reinforcing Avdiivka as Russia continues its offensive

Ukraine is reinforcing its troops fighting in Donetsk Oblast's Avdiivka, and some units of the 110th Separate Mechanized Brigade were withdrawn from the city for rotation for the first time in almost two years, the brigade's spokesman Ivan Siekach said on Feb. 13.

Avdiivka, lying only kilometers away from Russian-occupied Donetsk, has suffered intensified Russian attacks since October 2023 as Moscow's troops aim to encircle and capture the city.

The head of the city's military administration said on Feb. 6 that the situation around Avdiivka was becoming "very difficult."

The 110th Separate Mechanized Brigade "no longer has sufficient capabilities to hold the city" on its own, but "reinforcement is coming," Siekach told the Ukrainian service of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

He did not say which unit was deployed to Avdiivka to reinforce the 110th brigade, noting only that "this is powerful support, we felt a little calmer when they came."

The 110th Separate Mechanized Brigade has been defending Avdiivka since March 2022.

Intense fighting continues in the eastern city, with Russian forces trying to cut Ukraine's main supply route, according to Siekach.

Fate of Avdiivka uncertain as Ukrainian forces defending it struggle with fortifications, resources
Editor’s note: The full names of the soldiers introduced in the story are not disclosed due to security concerns amid the ongoing war in Ukraine. DONETSK OBLAST – As artillery began pounding the cold-hardened ground ahead of them, two Ukrainian soldiers listened warily to shell impacts creep closer…

Russia has allegedly been purchasing Starlink terminals from "Arab countries," Ukraine's military intelligence (HUR) said on Feb. 13, citing intercepted communications.

Claims have circulated that Russian troops were reportedly using the Starlink terminals, which are operated by SpaceX and have been extensively deployed by Ukrainian forces for military purposes.

Ukraine's military intelligence agency said on Feb. 13 that it had intercepted radio communications where Russians were discussing the purchase of Starlink terminals in "Arab countries" but did not specify which countries.

Elon Musk, the owner of SpaceX, denied on Feb. 11 that his company had sold any Starlink terminals to Russia.

"To the best of our knowledge, no Starlinks have been sold directly or indirectly to Russia."

In a follow-up statement, Musk said that Starlink would not connect to devices in Russia: "Starlink satellites will not close the link in Russia."

Both military intelligence and media reports said that Russian forces connected Starlink in occupied Ukraine, not on Russian territory.

Bloomberg: Tankers tied to Russian oil trade grind to halt amidst US sanctions
A large fleet of oil tankers used to export Russian crude oil is grinding to a halt, potentially as a result of increased U.S. sanctions on the Russian oil market, Bloomberg reported on Feb. 13.

Dnipro authorities evacuate hospital, close schools after attack on energy infrastructure

A hospital in Dnipro was evacuated and schools are being closed following a Russian attack on civil infrastructure, Mayor Borys Filatov announced on Feb. 13.

Dnipropetrovsk Governor Serhii Lysak said on the morning of Feb. 13 that 10 Shahed-type attack drones had been downed over Dnipro district overnight, "but there were also several hits" and energy infrastructure caught on fire.

DTEK, Ukraine's main private energy company, had reported at 1 a.m. on Feb. 13 that one of its thermal power plants had been "severely damaged" in an attack, without specifying the location.

State-owned energy operator Ukrenergo later said that an attack on energy infrastructure in Dnipropetrovsk Oblast damaged a thermal power plant, impacting the heating supply to Dnipro.

Following the attack, there were also reports of power outages in the city of Pavlohrad and Pavlohrad district, around 80 kilometers east of Dnipro.

"Due to nighttime attacks, we are evacuating one of the hospitals, draining the heating system, and taking out a considerable number of palliative patients," Filatov reported on Telegram.

"We are also closing schools" since the weather will get colder and the heating system "may not be able to withstand the load," Filatov said.

In a later message on Telegram, Filatov advised residents to go to the city's "points of invincibility," or specially equipped shelters that provide heating, electricity, and internet, if needed.

Mediazona: Estonian PM Kaja Kallas among foreigners on Russian wanted list
Russian independent media outlet Mediazona reported on Feb. 13 that it has analyzed the database of the Russian Internal Ministry’s wanted persons list, and found that dozens of European politicians are on the list, including Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas.
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