Thursday evening saw a mixed bag of announcements related to military aid to Ukraine, with good news coming from the US but some far less positive news emanating from Slovakia.

Tell me the good news

Despite the ongoing uncertainty of the future of US aid to Ukraine, the White House announced a new $150 million military assistance package.

It includes artillery, small-arms ammunition, anti-tank weapons, air defence missiles, night vision devices, demolitions munitions and cold weather gear.

How did the White House approve it?

Opposition from hardline Republican lawmakers has put future assistance for Kyiv in doubt, and the US government is now relying on previously approved aid in the absence of new funding from Congress.

The latest package “utilizes assistance previously authorized for Ukraine during prior fiscal years,” the Pentagon said in a statement.

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“The Biden administration calls on Congress to meet its commitment to the people of Ukraine by passing additional funding to ensure Ukraine continues to have what it needs to defend itself against Russia's brutal war of choice,” the statement said.

How has Ukraine reacted?

President Zelensky thanked the US for the military assistance in a post on social media.

“As winter approaches, strengthening air defense is critical to protect Ukrainian cities and infrastructure,” Zelensky said on X, formerly known as Twitter.

What’s the bad news?

Slovakia's new populist Prime Minister Robert Fico said on Thursday that he “informed” the European Union's executive of his decision to stop military aid to Ukraine, the first such Western reversal of backing for Kyiv, AFP reports.

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Earlier on Thursday, Fico told MPs that the country would “no longer supply weapons to Ukraine,” but would still supply humanitarian aid to its war-torn neighbour.

“I will support zero military aid to Ukraine... An immediate halt to military operations is the best solution we have for Ukraine. The EU should change from an arms supplier to a peacemaker," he added.

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Will this have a significant effect?

While Slovakia’s military aid to Ukraine is nowhere near that of the US’s, it is hugely symbolic and Bratislava's previous pro-Western government had shown strong support for Ukraine.

Slovak political scientist Branislav Kovacik told AFP that Ukraine “will not miss the volume (of aid) provided by Slovakia” but added that “any loss in unity and support has symbolic meaning.”

The Central European country of 5.4 million people was notably the first NATO nation to deliver fighter jets to its war-torn neighbour.

According to the German-based Kiel Institute, Slovakia had pledged 680 million euros in total government support to Ukraine through July 2023.

That puts Slovakia among the countries with the largest government support to Ukraine by GDP (0.65 percent), behind Norway, the Baltic states, Denmark and Poland.

Even so, Russia dismissed how important the move was. “Slovakia did not have such a big share in the supply of weapons, so it will hardly affect the entire process,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters, when asked about Bratislava's decision.

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How has Ukraine reacted?

Asked by AFP for a reaction on the decision, the foreign ministry of Ukraine declined to comment.

What’s behind Slovakia’s decision?

Fico's party won last month's general vote on pledges to end military help for Ukraine, raising concerns about cracks in Western support for Kyiv.

Ukraine's once close ties with fellow neighbour Poland have also recently plunged.

Following his party's victory, Fico said “the people in Slovakia have bigger problems than (dealing with) Ukraine” and called for peace talks as “further killing will not help anyone.”

In the run-up to last month's Polish general election, Warsaw said it would restrict arms deliveries to Kyiv as it needed to build up its own army.

A very public diplomatic row ensued, with Polish President Andrzej Duda comparing Ukraine to a “drowning man” who risked dragging his rescuers into the water.

Speaking at the UN at the time, President Zelensky spoke of some EU countries “feigning solidarity” and thereby “indirectly supporting Russia.”

Fico spoke a day after his three-party coalition government was appointed.

It includes Fico's left-wing Smer-SD, the far-right and pro-Russia SNS, and Hlas-SD, a breakaway party from Smer.

SNS shares Fico's staunch anti-refugee stance and populist leanings. Its pro-Russian chairman and former parliamentary speaker Andrej Danko said in July that Russian-occupied territories were not “historically Ukrainian.”

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He is infamous for shaking hands with President Putin, taking a selfie with Russian State Duma Chair Vyacheslav Volodin, and addressing Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov as “my dear friend.”

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