US House of Representatives Speaker to introduce new Ukraine aid bill which must then pass in the Senate 

Defying hardliners within his party in the US House of Representatives, Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) on Wednesday announced he would put forth a long-awaited bill to provide aid to Ukraine.

Rather than putting a Senate-passed bill to a vote that included $61 billion in assistance for Kyiv, the House is devising three separate bills of its own, one of which extends $10 billion of that sum to Ukraine as a loan to help keep its government running, while the rest would come in the form of military support.

Introducing an entirely new bill in the House means the bill must also pass the Senate where a potential filibuster by Senate Republicans could bring further delays. To halt a filibuster, according to self-imposed Senate rules not required by the US Constitution, 60 votes would be required. This would mean 10 Republicans in addition to the 50 Democrats would have to favor immediate passage for the entirely new bill to proceed to a Senate floor vote.

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If it gets to a Senate floor vote, the bill would have to be passed without amendments before making its way to President Joe Biden for signature. If any changes are made in the Senate the bill would then have to return to the House where it would have to make its way to another House floor vote, which Speaker Johnson could again block.

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Zelensky's visit comes as Ukraine has been battling a Russian ground offensive in the Kharkiv region which began on May 10 in Moscow's biggest territorial advance in 18 months.

The lower chamber is set to vote on the measures on Saturday. The three bills, totaling the same $95 billion in procurement originally proposed by the Senate, if passed would then be sent to the upper chamber for approval, but would likely arrive there in the form of a single bill, policy analysts have said.

“After significant Member feedback and discussion, the House Rules Committee will be posting soon today the text of three bills that will fund America’s national security interests and allies in Israel, the Indo-Pacific, and Ukraine, including a loan structure for aid, and enhanced strategy and accountability,” Johnson wrote in a communication to colleagues.

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A fourth bill would address the sale of frozen Russian assets and impose stricter sanctions on Moscow.

Restructuring the Ukraine aid to include a loan (an idea favored by former president Donald Trump) was designed to appease some more right-wing Republicans in Congress. Still, flooring any vote on assistance to Kyiv has angered a small hardline faction of Republican representatives who since have called for Johnson’s ouster.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), one of the most vocal and flamboyant opponents of America’s financial support of Ukraine, has filed a motion to vacate the Speaker’s post. Washington insiders believe the proposal is unlikely to go anywhere in the House, which is still reeling from the chaos caused by the removal of Johnson’s predecessor, Kevin McCarthy of California. Taylor Greene’s allies, especially Matt Gaetz (R-FL) and Chip Roy (R-TX), similarly expressed outrage that the relatively new speaker would bring to the floor any foreign-aid bills supported by Democrats.

Zelensky addresses the EC summit in Brussels

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In the wake of a Russian missile attack that left 17 dead in Chernihiv, President Volodymyr Zelensky on Wednesday called on European leaders to provide more air defense systems to safeguard against increasing attacks on civilian infrastructure.

Speaking via a video link-up, Zelensky told the attendees of the European Council summit in Brussels, “We are still convinced that we need to protect Europe from ballistic missiles, and from Shaheds, from cruise missiles, and from bombs, as it happened in the skies of Israel and other countries in the region.

“Our Ukrainian skies and the skies of our neighbors deserve the same level of security. I am grateful to everyone who also understands our security needs such as the need for equal security for everyone, as all lives have the same value,” Zelensky said.

Captured Russian soldier sentenced to 12 years for Bucha war crimes

The Security Services of Ukraine reported on Wednesday that a captured Russian soldier has been sentenced to 12 years in prison for his role in the February 2022 atrocities in Bucha.

Radik Gukasyan, 29, was serving in Russia’s 331st Parachute Regiment of the 98th Airborne Division, when he and other soldiers opened fire on civilians in their car, and later buried a murdered man’s body in the woods.

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Investigators have found more than 9,000 instances of Russian war crimes in the Bucha area in the first month of the full-scale invasion. These include the murder of 1,400 civilians, including 37 children. Soldiers looted Ukrainian homes and kidnapped local residents.

Authorities said Gukasyan received a reduced sentence for cooperating with the investigation.

Moscow’s forces continue advances in Avdiivka and Donetsk city

Russian troops have made more gains around the Donetsk region in the past week, geolocated footage cited by the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) suggests.

West of the captured city of Avdiivka, invading forces have taken control of portions of a railway line southeast of Ocheretyne (northwest of Avdiivka), and made headway in western portions of Orlivka (west of Avdiivka). 

Meanwhile, fighting continued near the settlements of Novokalynove, Berdychi, Semenivka and Umanske; and southwest of Avdiivka near Pervomaiske.

West of the city of Donetsk, elements of Moscow’s 5th Motorized Rifle Brigade advanced to the Krasnohorivka brick factory, the ISW reported. Fighting continued west of the regional capital near Heorhiivka and southwest of the city near Novomykhailivka, Pobieda, and Vodyane.

Russians interrupt satellite TV channels across the country

About a dozen satellite TV channels said they have experienced problems with transmission on Wednesday, Ukrainska Pravda reported.

One of the largest media holdings in the country, 1+1 Media, reported troubles with their signal on a half dozen of their 39 channels, as did Channel 24, which reported outages stemming from its Astra 4A 11766 H transponder.

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“This spring, the Russian Federation started to actively jam the signals of Ukrainian TV channels on Astra 4A and Hot Bird 13E satellites owned by European telecommunications companies SES and Eutelsat,” a statement from the broadcaster said.

The groups described the interruptions as simply radio frequency interference.

“Our teams are currently investigating and looking into all possible ways to mitigate the impact on affected services,” a spokesperson from 1+1 Media was quoted by Reuters as saying.

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