U.S. President Joe Biden called key Western allies on Tuesday to reassure them of continued American military support for Ukraine's fight against Russia after hardline right-wing congressional Republicans over the weekend forced the exclusion of immediate new funding for Kyiv.
The White House said Biden spoke with the leaders of Canada, Germany, Italy, Japan, Poland, Romania, Britain, and of the European Union and NATO, along with the foreign minister of France.
"President Biden convened a call this morning with allies and partners to coordinate our ongoing support for Ukraine,' the White House said in a statement.
Later, White House national security spokesman John Kirby said Biden reaffirmed the strong commitment of the United States to supporting Ukraine as it defends itself "for as long as it takes, as did every other leader on the call."
Kirby said the leaders discussed efforts to continue providing Ukraine with the ammunition and the weapons systems that it needs to defend itself and to continue strengthening Ukrainian air defenses as they prepare for more attacks on critical infrastructure. "Now, certainly, but also certainly in the winter months ahead," Kirby said.
Biden had sought more Ukraine aid as Congress engaged in an 11th-hour debate Saturday to avert a partial government shutdown at midnight, just ahead of the start of the government's new fiscal year Sunday morning. Congress approved government funding through mid-November but no new Ukraine aid.
Some right-wing Republicans have balked at new funding for Kyiv, contending that Ukraine's fight against Russia is not a strategic U.S. national security interest, although the large majority of U.S. lawmakers still appear to support more aid.
Democrat Biden has called for Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy to rush through new aid over the objection of some Republicans, saying that U.S. support for Kyiv as it battles Russia's invasion could not be interrupted 'under any circumstances.' The Democratic-controlled Senate already appears set to approve further assistance.
'Speaker McCarthy and the majority of House Republicans must keep their word and secure passage of the support needed to help Ukraine as it defends itself,' Biden said earlier Tuesday on X, formerly known as Twitter.
'We are the indispensable nation in the world - let's act like it," Biden said. The president has also warned that not much time remains before existing funding runs out.
Russia on Monday called the political chaos in Washington a sign that Western war fatigue would grow amid the uncertainty over U.S. assistance for Ukraine.
McCarthy's fate as the leader of the narrow Republican majority in the House of Representatives is also in question, with the hardline bloc of his caucus moving Tuesday to oust him from his leadership position for cooperating with Democrats to approve the short-term funding bill to keep the government open for the next seven weeks.
Ukraine downs Russian drones
Ukraine's air force said Tuesday it destroyed 29 drones and a cruise missile that Russia used to attack Ukrainian regions overnight.
The Ukrainian military said most of the drones targeted the Mykolaiv region in southern Ukraine and the Dnipropetrovsk region in the central part of the country.
Serhiy Lysak, the regional governor of Dnipropetrovsk, said falling debris from the intercepts damaged an industrial site in the city of Pavlohrad and caused a fire at a private firm in Dnipro.
The attacks followed renewed pledges of support from the European Union, as EU foreign ministers met Monday in Kyiv.
Western aid for Ukraine has come under political pressure after a pro-Russian candidate won an election in Slovakia, an EU and NATO member. The Ukrainian military counter-offensive has also been slower than Western leaders had hoped before autumn mud clogs the treads of their donated tanks.
"Our victory explicitly depends on our cooperation - the more powerful and principled steps we take together, the sooner this war will end," Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told the EU foreign ministers during the meeting.
Zelenskyy noted that Ukraine continues to protect its people and its economy from continuous Russian attacks, that its counteroffensive aimed at liberating its occupied territories is progressing steadily and reminded the EU leadership that Ukraine needs more money, more weapons and more military training to achieve its goals. He also asked them to intensify sanctions against Russia.
German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock called for efforts to prepare Ukraine for the coming winter, including through air defense and guaranteed energy supplies, after Russia bombed Ukraine's energy infrastructure last year.
'Last winter, we saw the brutal way in which the Russian president is waging this war,' said Baerbock. 'We must prevent this together with everything we have, as far as possible."
French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna said holding the meeting in Ukraine's capital was a show of "resolute and lasting support for Ukraine."
"It is also a message to Russia that it should not count on our weariness. We will be there for a long time to come," Colonna told reporters.
Dutch Foreign Minister Hanke Bruins Slot said Russia must be held accountable for its aggression in Ukraine and that it is important to pressure Russia with sanctions.
"We have to do whatever it takes, as long as it takes, for the freedom of the people of Ukraine," she said.
At least two people were killed and 10 injured, including children, by Russian shelling of Ukraine's southern region of Kherson on Tuesday. Regional governor Oleksandr Prokudin said on the Telegram messaging app that Russian forces pounded residential areas, shops, medical facilities and other infrastructure overnight.
In the eastern city of Kharkiv, which is located near the Russian border, officials announced plans to build a school entirely underground in response to frequent Russian bomb and missile attacks.
Students have used online courses and met in Kharkiv's metro stations to avoid the dangers.
Mayor Ihor Terekhov said on Telegram that the new underground school "will enable thousands of Kharkiv children to continue their safe face-to-face education even during missile threats."
Some information for this story came from The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters.