Ukraine Situation Report: Senate Passes Bill To Create Weapons Lend-Lease Program For Ukraine
If the lend-lease bill becomes law, it would help accelerate deliveries of weapons and other military material to Ukraine.
With Russia's war in Ukraine about to enter its eighth week, the U.S. Senate has passed a bill to establish a new military assistance mechanism for Ukraine similar to the World War II Lend-Lease program. If this becomes law, it could lead to a dramatic increase in what has already been a steady flow of weapons, ammunition, and other materiel from the U.S. government to its Ukrainian counterparts.
Ukrainian officials have been asking the United States and other countries to send more and more aid as the tenor of the conflict has changed in recent weeks. Russia's military has now very clearly pulled forces out of areas in the northern end of the country and is redoubling its attention on objectives further to the east and south. In turn, Ukrainian forces have now been able to liberate significant portions of the country and continue to not only resist Russian advances elsewhere, but counterattack on multiple fronts.
Separately, the United Nations' General Assembly voted to kick Russia off of the body's Human Rights Council over the conflict. Only 24 countries voted against the resolution, with another 58 abstaining, underscoring how isolated the Kremlin has become as a result of the war.
The War Zone readers can first get up to speed on recent developments in the conflict in Ukraine before diving into the latest news below through our preceding rolling coverage here.
WARNING: Some of the updates below contain graphic material.
The War Zone's continuing rolling coverage of Russia's war in Ukraine can be found here.
POSTED: 3:35 PM EST—
Representatives from the United States and 92 other countries voted in favor of suspending Russia from its spot on the U.N. Human Right Council earlier today, meeting the two-thirds majority required to take such action. The resolution that was passed underscored the General Assembly's right to “suspend the rights of membership in the Human Rights Council of a member of the Council that commits gross and systematic violations of human rights.”
Russian officials had already warned ahead of today's vote that ties with any country that sided with the plan to remove it from the Human Right Council could be negatively impacted.
The resolution that General Assembly passed today said it was taking this action in light of “grave concern” over reports of “gross and systematic violations and abuses of human rights” and “violations of international humanitarian law.” Evidence of possible Russian war crimes has been steadily building in the past week or so as Ukrainian forces have retaken a significant portion of the northern end of the country.
This includes strong indications that civilians have been executed and otherwise deliberately targeted. Russian forces reportedly sowed mines and other booby-traps, to include trip-wiring bodies, as they withdrew from areas in northern Ukraine.
Germany's Federal Intelligence Service, better known by the acronym BND, reportedly intercepted audio communications where Russian forces can be heard discussing executing civilians. German authorities also reportedly believe that the Russian private military company Wagner, which has close ties to the country's intelligence services, was directly involved in the now infamous massacre of innocent Ukrainians in the town of Bucha outside of the capital Kyiv.
The alleged war crimes have reportedly derailed negotiations between Ukrainian and Russian representatives in Turkey. Officials on both sides, as well as Turkish mediators, have said progress toward a diplomatic settlement to the conflict was already slow going, at best.
Late on Wednesday night, the U.S. Senate passed a bill to establish a new military assistance effort for Ukraine modeled in part over America's Lend-Lease program during World War II. A companion bill still needs to pass in the House of Representatives before the proposed legislation can head to President Joe Biden's desk to be signed into law.
If it does become law, it could significantly accelerate the delivery of new military assistance packages to Ukraine. The U.S. government would be authorized to effectively loan weapons and other materiel to the Ukrainian Armed Forces, eliminating the need to go through certain existing processes governing the formal transfer of military aid and how it is paid for.
"Grateful to the U.S. Senate for passing the Ukraine Democracy Defense Lend-Lease Act. Important first step towards a lend-lease program to expedite the delivery of military equipment to Ukraine," Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba wrote on Twitter. "Looking forward to its swift passage in the House and signing by the U.S. President."
Speaking at NATO's headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, Kuleba separately said that he had three items on his agenda in upcoming talks with Ukraine's international partners: "weapons, weapons, and weapons." Ukraine's top diplomat added that the country was still seeking additional combat jets, tanks and other armored vehicles, and air defense systems.
Even without the potential new Lend-Lease program, the United States and other countries continue to ship weapons and other materiel to Ukraine to support its war effort against Russia. Earlier today, U.S. Army Gen. Mark Milley, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee that the Ukrainian Armed Forces had received 25,000 anti-aircraft weapon systems and 60,000 anti-tank weapon systems. Many of these are shoulder-fired systems, as you can read more about here.
Dmitry Peskov, Russian President Vladimir Putin's personal spokesperson, acknowledged "significant losses" on Russia's part over the course of the war in Ukraine today. "This is a huge tragedy for us," he added. The Russian government has, so far, only officially admitted to losing 1,351 military personnel, a figure that is far lower than the casualty estimates from Ukrainian, American, and other foreign government officials.
The Russian government now says that an explosion on March 29 at an arsenal in its western Belgorod region, which borders Ukraine, was the result of a Ukrainian strike carried out using Tochka-U short-range ballistic missiles. Belgorod is also where Russian authorities say Ukrainian Mi-24 Hind attack helicopters carried out a cross-border attack on an oil storage facility on the night of March 31-April 1. The circumstances surrounding that incident remain murky, as you can read more about here.
Efforts to help Ukrainian civilians evacuate from parts of the country's eastern Donbas region are now reportedly stalled after a Russian airstrike cut a key railway line.
The video below reportedly shows a low-flying Russian Su-25 Frogfoot ground-attack aircraft firing off decoy flares during operations over Ukraine.
The video below, shot by Ukrainian forces using a small drone, reportedly shows a Russian soldier running back to an established position, which was then targeted by artillery fire.
Vitaliy Kim, the governor of Ukraine's Mykolaiv region, released a video, seen below, that shows paramilitary police employing a Ukrainian-made RK-3 Corsar anti-tank guided missile at Russian forces. Kim, who has emerged as a notably colorful figurehead of Ukraine's resistance to the Russian invasion and who has been targeted directly, described them as bringing a "traffic violator" to justice.
The picture in the Tweet below reportedly shows a Ukrainian BTR-3E wheeled armored vehicle that Russian forces captured and then pressed into service.
A damaged BMP-2 infantry fighting vehicle has been spotted in Ukraine with "WOLVERINES" spray-painted in English on the side. This would appear to be a reference to the 1984 movie Red Dawn, which centers on a band of teenagers, who dub themselves the Wolverines, fighting a guerrilla war against Soviet forces after a fictional invasion of the United States.
Finland's Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto says that his country is set to make its plans to possibly join NATO in the future more clear publicly in the coming weeks. The Finnish government has been actively reassessing its traditionally neutral foreign policy in light of the conflict in Ukraine.
We will continue to update this post with new information until we state otherwise.
Contact the author: email@example.com
MORE TO READ
Ukraine Situation Report: Donated Czech T-72 Tanks, BMP-1 Armored Vehicles Headed To Ukraine
Replenishing Ukraine’s stocks of tanks and armored vehicles could help it keep up the pressure on Russian invaders.
Ukraine Situation Report: Czech Republic To Transfer 56 Upgraded BMP-1 Armored Vehicles To Ukraine
The Soviet-era ex-East German BMP-1s will have changed hands four times by the time they arrive in Ukraine.