President Biden said Thursday the U.S. will be sending another $800 million in military aid to Ukraine to send an “unmistakable message” to Russian President Vladimir Putin as the Kremlin tries to reboot its troubled invasion of its neighbor.
Checked in the early days of the two-month operation in a direct attack on Ukraine’s major cities, Mr. Putin insisted Thursday the retooled operation was making progress, even as he tacitly acknowledged Russian forces have failed to dislodge a major deployment of Ukrainian forces holding out in the besieged southern port city of Mariupol.
In what has developed into one of the bloodiest encounters of the war so far, Mr. Putin said in a carefully staged Kremlin meeting that he was calling off a planned assault on Ukrainian troops and civilians still holed up in the giant Azovstal steel mill complex in Mariupol, saying the Russian forces could be better employed in the planned offensive elsewhere in Ukraine’s divided Donbas region.
In what State Department spokesman Ned Price said was an attempt to spin another military reverse, Mr. Putin said Mariupol had essentially been “liberated” and a tough, direct assault on the mill was unnecessary.
“We need to think about preserving the life and health of our soldiers and officers,” Mr. Putin told Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu in a televised briefing, while ordering a blockade of the Azovstal complex. “There’s no reason to penetrate through these subterranean pathways and beneath these industrial facilities.”
But the White House and Western military leaders said Russia’s recent moves show that Mr. Putin is all but admitting his initial war goals, including the quick overthrow of the government in Kyiv, can no longer be achieved.
“He will never succeed in dominating and occupying Ukraine. That will not happen,” Mr. Biden said from the White House Thursday.
Quiet assistance flows
Paraphrasing Theodore Roosevelt, Mr. Biden said the U.S. and its allies will “speak softly and carry a large Javelin” in providing weapons to Ukraine, referring to the surface-to-air missile that has proven so potent so far against Russian armored forces.
It’s the eighth drawdown of weapons, equipment, and supplies from Department of Defense inventory for Ukraine since August. This comes on top of an additional $800 million announced last Week.