The US Senate voted 79-18 on Tuesday night to pass a $95 billion foreign aid bill, including a long-awaited $61 billion for Ukraine.

The package, which also included funding for Israel and the Indo-Pacific, and contained a measure in its final version to ban Chinese-owned social media platform Tik Tok in the United States, had been stalled on Capitol Hill for almost six months.

Republicans in Congress loyal to former president Donald Trump had balked at further funding to Kyiv, derailing the initiative until House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) last weekend defied the far-right faction in the lower house that threatened to oust him, and put a successful vote to the floor.

In an important procedural maneuver earlier on Tuesday afternoon, the Senate voted to put the bill sent to them by the House to the floor, without amendments, by a count of 80-19. Rounding out a long day in Washington, the final vote on the bill on Tuesday was held at about 9:30 p.m.

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Dissenting senators included Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), John Barrasso (R-WY), Mike Brawn (R-IN), Ted Budd (R-NC), Bill Haggerty (R-TN), Michael Lee (R-UT), Roger Marshall (R-KS), Cynthia Lummis (R-WY), Ron Johnson (R-WI), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Eric Schmitt (R-MO), Rick Scott (R-FL), JD Vance (R-OH), and Peter Welch (D-VT)

Before the roll call, President pro-tempore of the Senate, Patty Murray (D-WA) told the upper house, “So now we are at the finish line. Let’s vote to stand by our allies, let’s say to dictators like Putin that they cannot invade sovereign allies freely and unchecked.”

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“Tonight, Beijing and Moscow are watching closely to see whether we have the vision,” she continued. “Our adversaries are cheering for dysfunction. Let’s show them unity instead.”

Minority leader Mitch McConnell, said “It’s time to reaffirm some basic truths. Alliances matter.”

Majority leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) added, “Tonight, we make Vladimir Putin rue the day he questioned America’s resolve.”

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Russian court rejects Gershkovich’s appeal

A Moscow court on Tuesday rejected an appeal from American journalist Evan Gershkovich, meaning that the Wall Street Journal reporter will remain in jail until at least the end of June on charges of espionage. His lawyers in the appeal process had asked that the 32-year-old be released from detention as he awaits trial.

Gershkovich has been in Russian custody for more than a year, since March of 2023. President Joe Biden’s administration has denied vehemently that the New Jersey native and Bowdoin College graduate, who grew up speaking Russian at home with his Soviet-born, Jewish parents, had any connection with American intelligence services.

He was arrested last year while on assignment for the Wall Street Journal in Yekaterinburg. His employers have asserted in vain that his presence there was purely journalistic in nature, and that the charges brought before him are meritless, while US foreign policy analysts sustain that Gershkovich remains a bargaining chip for the Kremlin during its two-year-old invasion of Ukraine, and its ensuing political confrontation with Washington.

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Russian prosecutors have yet to provide any evidence of spying.

Kremlin promises retaliation over any more frozen Western assets

Faced with increased pressure that Europe plans to allocate an additional $300 million in frozen Russian assets for Kyiv, the speaker of the Russian upper house of parliament Tuesday said that Moscow will strike back if those assets are liquidated and granted to the counteroffensive effort.

“The Europeans know that there will be a very tough response on our part, and an adequate response,” Valentina Matviyenko, the chairperson of the Federation Council said to state news agency RIA Novosti on Tuesday.

While not specifying what the Kremlin’s response will be, Matviyenko said that Europe “will lose more than we do.”

Oddly not mentioned by the Council’s speaker was the United States’ plan, as per a bill passed by the House of Representatives and sitting before the Senate on Tuesday, to extend its sanctions on Russia and use the proceeds of any further seizures to fund Ukraine’s defense.

NATO will not expand nukes in Europe, Stoltenberg says

Responding to recent remarks made by Polish President Andrzej Duda that more nuclear weapons could be deployed in other states in Eastern Europe, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said that the alliance currently has no plans to deploy nuclear weapons in other countries as the Russian invasion of Ukraine drags into its third year.

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At a press conference in Poland with British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on Tuesday, Stoltenberg said “there are no plans to expand NATO sharing arrangements, no plans to deploy any more nuclear weapons in any additional NATO countries.”

To date, outside the United States, NATO has deployed US-made nuclear weapons to Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Turkey since late 2009.

Duda made his remarks about NATO’s possible expansion of installations to member states that do not have nuclear weapons of their own after the Kremlin’s announcement that it would deploy such tactical weapons in Belarus.

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