April 22 (UPI) -- The Senate committee on foreign relations advanced bipartisan legislation to increase U.S. military and strategic support to Ukraine amid escalating tensions with Russia.
The Ukraine Security Partnership Act was overwhelmingly passed by the committee Wednesday to allocate $300 million in foreign military financing for Ukraine, including $150 million subject to conditions, as well as $4 million for international military education and training.
It also calls for the creation of a Ukraine working group with European allies, the appointment of a special envoy for the country on negotiations and regional issues and reaffirms the United States' commitment to Ukraine's transition to democracy and to deterring Russian aggression.
"As [Russian President Vladimir] Putin continues to escalate the situation along the border with Ukraine, we are speaking with one voice in reaffirming our steadfast support to the people of Ukraine and our commitment to protect our national security interests and our closest partners," Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., chairman of the Senate foreign relations committee, said in a statement, describing the bill as a "critical security assistance package."
The bill, which was introduced on March 17, passed as the United States and the European Union have expressed concern over Russia amassing upward of 150,000 troops at the Ukrainian border and in annexed Crimea and its plan to block foreign vessels from the Black Sea.
Ned Price, the State Department spokesman, said early this week that the Russian military buildup near Ukraine is occurring at levels that have not been seen since the Kremlin invaded the Crimea Peninsula in 2014.
Oksana Markarova, the ambassador of Ukraine to the United States, described the bill in a statement as "highly important and timely" given Russia's escalating military aggression.
"We are grateful to the U.S. Senate foreign relations committee for timely support with approval of Ukraine Security Partnerships Act, which aimed to increase military aid for our country," the embassy said in a tweet.
The bill was advanced Wednesday as Putin warned that any countries that threaten Russia will regret it.
"I hope no one will think of crossing so-called 'red lines' against Russia, which we ourselves will define in each separate case," Putin said in his annual state of the nation address. "We don't want to burn bridges, but when someone views our good intentions as indifference or weakness and intends to blow up these bridges, in turn, they must know Russia's response will be asymmetrical, swift and harsh."