The dramatic ouster of US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy has raised questions about the future of the country’s supply of aid to Ukraine.
McCarthy, who was backing US support for Ukraine, was removed in a no confidence vote led by members of his own party on Tuesday.
That comes amid a growing divide within the Republican party over the continuation of US aid. The US is by far the biggest provider of military aid to Ukraine.
Lawmakers earlier in the week suggested McCarthy arranged a standalone vote on Ukrainian aid with President Joe Biden in order to pass a government spending bill which did not contain provisions. McCarthy denied there had been a so-called “secret side deal.”
“President Biden made clear we cannot, under any circumstances, allow America’s support for Ukraine to be interrupted,” White House national security spokesperson John Kirby told reporters, according to a Reuters report, referring to Biden’s call with allied leaders Tuesday.
President Biden has told his counterparts in a number of allied countries that he remains confident that Congress will approve military and humanitarian assistance for Ukraine “for as long as it takes” in spite of opposition among some Republicans that blocked funding over the weekend.
In a call on Tuesday morning, Mr. Biden spoke with the prime ministers of Canada, Italy, Japan, and the United Kingdom, and the presidents of Poland and Romania. The Chancellor of Germany and the foreign minister of France also joined the call, along with the leaders of the European Commission, the European Council and NATO.
John Kirby, a spokesman for the National Security Council, said early in the afternoon that Mr. Biden had told the leaders that “we cannot under any circumstances allow America’s support for Ukraine to be interrupted. Time is not our friend.”
Russia, Ukraine say dozens of drones downed
Russia’s Defense Ministry said it downed 31 Ukrainian drones Tuesday in the border regions of Belgorod, Bryansk and Kursk, without citing any casualties or damage.
The Ukrainian armed forces separately said its anti-aircraft defense systems destroyed one Iskander-K cruise missile and 29 Shahed drones.
Ukraine also said Russia had launched five rocket and 108 airstrikes over the past day. Residential buildings and civilian infrastructure were damaged and there were civilian injuries and casualties, the army said.
Analysts say that Russia has been using a tactic known as “elastic defense,” which involves ceding ground and then striking back, to prevent Ukraine from holding certain positions as staging grounds for future attacks.
Across desolate fields and shattered villages, Ukraine’s counteroffensive is confronting Russian minefields and Russian soldiers dug into elaborate trench networks.
But one unusually daunting obstacle to Ukrainian troops is a tactic adopted by Russian forces: ceding ground and then striking back.
Rather than holding a line of trenches at all costs in the face of Ukraine’s assault, security experts say, Russian commanders have employed a longstanding military tactic known as “elastic defense.”
Little ground has changed hands as Ukraine seeks a battlefield breakthrough
Ukraine and Russia have been fighting intense battles since June, when Kyiv launched a counteroffensive buoyed by billions of dollars in military aid from NATO allies, but relatively little ground has changed hands.
Here’s a look at the state of the battlefield:
The Zaporizhzhia region
The main thrust of Kyiv’s counteroffensive is taking place in southern Ukraine in the western half of the Zaporizhzhia region. Ukraine took the village of Robotyne last month after weeks of combat. There have since been reports of other small advances. Ukraine needs to push through miles of territory and minefields before it reaches the fortified city of Tokmak, some 15 miles southwest of Robotyne. After that, Ukraine’s next objective in that part of the front line could be the city of Melitopol, which is around 31 miles from Tokmak.
The Donetsk region
In eastern Ukraine, Ukraine’s military said this month it had retaken the tiny villages of Klishchiivka and Andriivka, just south of the Russian-controlled city of Bakhmut. Putting pressure on Russian forces in the city, which fell in May after one of the war’s bloodiest battles, is one apparent goal of the counteroffensive. Some US intelligence and military officials said in August they were perplexed by Kyiv’s focus on Bakhmut, a position rejected by Ukraine.
There has been heavy fighting in other sectors in Donetsk province. Close to the regional capital, Donetsk, Russian forces have conducted ground attacks near Marinka and Adviivka, but have been repelled, according to Ukraine’s military. Moscow has targeted the towns since the first days of its full-scale invasion 19 months ago.
For their part, Ukrainian forces have pushed south since June from a front line close to the town of Velyka Novosilka. In August, they took the village of Urozhaine.
The Kharkiv region
In the northeast, Moscow has seized a small amount of territory since the summer in fighting for villages east of the city of Kupiansk, the only sector in which Russia has made a concerted recent effort to advance. Military experts say the attacks are likely partly aimed at forcing Ukraine to divert troops from its main counteroffensive thrust.
President Volodymyr Zelensky visited troops near Kupiansk on Tuesday to hand out medals and inspect military equipment, including Leopard tanks that have been donated by the country’s NATO allies in Europe. His Telegram account posted a video of him in a forest shaking hands with a small group of soldiers, who appeared to include older men — a sign of the toll the war has taken on Ukraine.
The Kherson region
Last November, Ukraine retook the southern city of Kherson, forcing Moscow to retreat to the eastern side of the Dnipro River.
Since then, Ukraine has launched raids along the eastern bank amid fighting for river islands. Russia has shelled the river’s western bank repeatedly. In June, the destruction of the river’s Kakhovka hydroelectric dam, in an explosion likely caused by Russian forces, caused environmental devastation.
The Black Sea and Crimea
The Black Sea has become a main center of conflict. Ships from Russia’s Black Sea Fleet have launched deadly missile strikes across Ukraine, and Kyiv has increasingly been using drones and missiles to try to undercut Moscow’s naval dominance. Since August, Ukraine has damaged a Russian warship in a drone strike and hit Moscow’s naval headquarters in occupied Crimea.
Ukraine has also repeatedly attacked the bridge that joins Russia to the Crimean Peninsula, which Moscow illegally annexed in 2014. In turn, Russia has targeted Ukraine’s ports on the Danube River and the Black Sea, including Odesa, hampering its ability to ship grain.