Biden seeks $33 billion for Ukraine, a massive jump in funding

President Joe Biden asked Congress on Thursday for $33 billion to support Ukraine, a dramatic escalation of US funding for the war against Russia, as well as new legal tools to divert assets from Russian oligarchs.

The vast funding request includes more than $20 billion for weapons, ammunition and other military assistance, as well as $8.5 billion in direct economic assistance to the government and $3 billion in humanitarian and food security aid.

“We need this bill to support Ukraine in its fight for freedom,” Biden said at the White House. “The cost of this fight is not cheap, but giving in to the aggression will be more expensive.”

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Biden is also seeking the ability to seize more money from Russian oligarchs to pay for the war effort.

His proposal would see lawmakers give his administration new capabilities, allowing US officials to seize more assets from oligarchs, turn over the money from those seizures to Ukraine and further criminalize sanctions evasion, the White House said.

The steps include allowing the Justice Department to use the strict US racketeering law once implemented against the mob, the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), to build cases against people who evade sanctions.

Biden also wants to give prosecutors more time to build such cases by extending the statute of limitations on money laundering prosecutions to 10 years, instead of five.

It would also make it a criminal act to withhold money knowingly taken from corrupt dealings with Russia, according to a summary of the proposals.

The moves are part of US efforts to isolate and punish Russia for its February 24 invasion of Ukraine, as well as to help kyiv recover from a war that has reduced cities to rubble and forced more than five million people to flee abroad.

The new request represents the full amount US officials expect to need through September, the end of the fiscal year.

US military aid to Ukraine alone has exceeded $3 billion since Russia launched what it calls a “special military operation” to demilitarize and expel fascists in Ukraine. kyiv and its Western allies dismiss it as a false pretext.

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