U.S. President Joe Biden speaks in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, April 28, 2022. Biden will ask Congress to provide $33 billion for military, economic, and humanitarian aid to Ukraine, as well as the power to seize and sell the assets of wealthy Russians. Photo by Samuel Corum/UPI | License Photo
April 28 (UPI) -- President Joe Biden called on Congress in a speech Thursday to swiftly pass a measure giving $33 billion in additional emergency support to Ukraine to defend against Russian forces, a signal that the president is making a serious commitment to oppose Moscow's military designs.
Biden has already given billions to the Ukraine war effort, but he said a few days ago that the funds are quickly running out.
In his remarks Thursday, the president stressed the importance of U.S. aid in repelling Russian President Vladimir Putin's invasion.
"We need this bill to support Ukraine's fight for freedom," he said. "We either back the Ukrainian people as they defend their country, or we stand by as Russians continue their aggression and atrocities in Ukraine."
He added that although the Kremlin continues to put out "disturbing rhetoric," the United States will not respond in kind to Moscow.
"We're helping Ukraine defend itself against Russian aggression," Biden said. "As long as the assaults continue, we will continue to provide assistance."
Biden urged Congress to pass a bill allowing the government to seize and forfeit assets and property linked to wealthy Russian oligarchs and using those proceeds to support Ukraine. The House on Wednesday overwhelmingly passed a resolution asking for the same thing.
"President Biden will send a proposal for a comprehensive legislative package that will enhance the United States government's authority to hold the Russian government and Russian oligarchs accountable for President Putin's war," the White House said in a statement earlier Thursday.
The new call comes after Biden pledged an additional $1.3 billion in aid for Ukraine last week, which includes military, economic and humanitarian assistance. At the time, he said that further aid beyond that would have to come from Congress. Biden's government has already provided Ukraine with more than $3 billion since Russia launched its invasion on Feb. 24.
The new efforts announced Thursday include greater ability to seize Russian assets, transfer some of those assets to Ukraine, tightening sanctions and expanding prosecution powers.
"We have laid out and now implemented a three-part strategy," a senior administration official told reporters earlier Thursday. "We have imposed powerful sanctions and unprecedented export controls on Russia. We have bolstered NATO's force posture on the eastern flank. And we have provided robust military and other assistance to Ukraine as it sought to defend its territory from an outrageous and unlawful Russian attack."
"Despite having no boots on the ground, our assistance has made a significant difference on the battlefield, helping the brave citizens of Ukraine to win the Battle of Kyiv and to continue to deplete the Russian military," the official added.
Biden's speech and new commitment comes four days days after Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin traveled to Ukraine to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. During the visit, they said that Ukraine is succeeding in its campaign to repel Russian forces and that Moscow is failing.
Responding to questions from the press pool after his speech Thursday, Biden was asked about escalating warnings from the Kremlin that have raised the specter of nuclear war if the West interferes too much in its war in Ukraine. The president condemned those warnings and said that no one should be making idle comments about using nuclear weapons.
Biden also rejected Russian accusations that the United States and NATO are fighting a proxy war against Moscow and said those remarks show just how desperate the Kremlin is getting after failing in their initial objectives to take Kyiv.
The president told reporters after his speech that he's considering diverting some U.S. natural gas sales to Poland and Bulgaria -- two European Union countries that were entirely cut off by Moscow earlier this week. Putin said he suspended sales of Russian gas to both nations because they refused to pay for it in rubles.
Scenes from Ukraine: Destruction, atrocities and mourning in Borodianka, Bucha and Irpin
Priest Andrii Gavalin presides over the funeral of Eugene Bogdanov, 35, in Bucha, Ukraine, on May 10. Bogdanov went missing two months ago. His wife, Natalia Bogdanova, was searching for him throughout the Kyiv and Bucha regions when his body was found at a morgue in Belaya Tserkov on May 9. Photo by Ken Cedeno/UPI | License Photo