WASHINGTON — A $13.6 billion emergency package of military and humanitarian aid for besieged Ukraine and its European allies easily won final congressional approval Thursday, hitching a ride on a government-wide spending bill that’s five months late but loaded with political prizes for both parties.

With Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion killing thousands and forcing over 2 million others to flee, the Senate approved the overall $1.5 trillion overall legislation by a 68-31 bipartisan margin. Democrats and Republicans have battled this election year over rising inflation, energy policy and lingering pandemic restrictions, but they’ve rallied behind sending aid to Ukraine, whose stubborn resilience against brutal force has been inspirational for many voters.

“We promised the Ukrainian people they would not go at it alone in their fight against Putin,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said just before the vote. “And once we pass this funding in a short while, we will keep that promise.”

The House passed the compromise bill easily Wednesday. President Biden’s signature was certain.

Around half the $13.6 billion measure was for arming and equipping Ukraine and the Pentagon’s costs for sending U.S. troops to other Eastern European nations skittish about the warfare next door. Much of the rest included humanitarian and economic assistance, strengthening regional allies’ defenses and protecting their energy supplies and cybersecurity needs.

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U.S. misjudged Ukraine’s will to fight Russia, intelligence officials admit

WASHINGTON — Top U.S. intelligence officials admitted Thursday that they underestimated Ukraine’s ability to defend itself against Russia’s invasion, a mistake for intelligence agencies that have otherwise been lauded for accurately predicting Russian President Vladimir Putin’s intention to launch a war.

“My view was that, based on a variety of factors, that the Ukrainians were not as ready as I thought they should be,” said Lt. Gen. Scott Berrier, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency. “Therefore, I questioned their will to fight. That was a bad assessment on my part because they have fought bravely and honorably and are doing the right thing.”

The White House has faced Republican criticism that it isn’t providing enough weapons or intelligence to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. The Biden administration is currently opposed to a Polish plan to donate old Russian-made warplanes to Ukraine, out of concern that Putin may view that as an escalation by the U.S. or NATO.

Berrier testified alongside other top officials before the Senate Intelligence Committee. Generally, U.S. intelligence agencies have won praise from lawmakers of both political parties for their handling of the crisis.

Much of the hearing focused on the unprecedented U.S. campaign to declassify intelligence about alleged attempts by Russia to create a fake pretext for its invasion. Even though Putin ordered the invasion anyway, lawmakers say the campaign helped develop support for sanctions that have crippled Russia’s economy and pushed previously reluctant Western countries to give military aid to Ukraine.


Two weeks into its invasion, Russia has failed to win control of Ukraine’s airspace or subdue the capital of Kyiv or other major cities. But the war has had devastating consequences already: An airstrike hitting a maternity hospital, attacks on nuclear plants, and more than 2 million refugees having already fled the country with accounts of possible war crimes.

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Ukrainian embassy draws U.S. citizens seeking to fight in war

WASHINGTON  — Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has given the smaller nation’s embassy in Washington an unexpected role: recruitment center for Americans who want to join the fight.

Diplomats working out of the embassy, in a townhouse in the Georgetown section of the city, are fielding thousands of offers from volunteers seeking to fight for Ukraine, even as they work on the far more pressing matter of securing weapons to defend against an increasingly brutal Russian onslaught.

Ukraine Russia War Foreign Fighters

Major General Borys Kremenetskyi, Defense Attache with the Embassy of Ukraine Associated Press/Patrick Semansky

“They really feel that this war is unfair, unprovoked,” said Ukraine’s military attaché, Maj. Gen. Borys Kremenetskyi. “They feel that they have to go and help.”


U.S. volunteers represent just a small subset of foreigners seeking to fight for Ukraine, who in turn comprise just a tiny fraction of the international assistance that has flowed into the country. Still, it is a a reflection of the passion, supercharged in an era of social media, that the attack and the mounting civilian casualties have stirred.

“This is not mercenaries who are coming to earn money,” Kremenetskyi said. “This is people of goodwill who are coming to assist Ukraine to fight for freedom.”

The U.S. government discourages Americans from going to fight in Ukraine, which raises legal and national security issues.

Since the Feb. 24 invasion, the embassy in Washington has heard from at least 6,000 people inquiring about volunteering for service, the “vast majority” of them American citizens, said Kremenetskyi, who oversees the screening of potential U.S. recruits.

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In Poland, Harris embraces call for war crimes probe of Russia


WARSAW, Poland  — U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris on Thursday embraced calls for an international war crimes investigation of Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, citing the “atrocities” of bombing civilians, including a maternity hospital.

Speaking alongside Polish President Andrzej Duda at a press conference in Warsaw, where she is demonstrating U.S. support for NATO’s eastern flank allies, Harris expressed outrage over the bombing Wednesday of the maternity hospital and scenes of bloodied pregnant women being evacuated, as well as other attacks on civilians. She stopped short of directly accusing Russia of having committed war crimes.

“Absolutely there should be an investigation, and we should all be watching,” said Harris, noting that the United Nations has already started a process to review allegations. “I have no question the eyes of the world are on this war and what Russia has done in terms of this aggression and these atrocities.”

Duda said “it is obvious to us that in Ukraine Russians are committing war crimes.” He added that in his view the invasion was “bearing the features of a genocide — it aims at eliminating and destroying a nation.”

Harris praised the Polish people for their generosity for taking in nearly 1.5 million refugees since Russia invaded Ukraine last month.

“I’ve been watching or reading about the work of ordinary people doing extraordinary things, and so I bring you thanks from the American people,” Harris said earlier during a meeting with Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki hours after the U.S. House passed a massive spending bill that includes $13.6 billion in aid for Ukraine and its European allies.


The legislation includes $6.8 billion to care for refugees and other economic aid to allies.

Harris also met Thursday with seven refugees who have fled from Ukraine to Poland since the Russian invasion began. She praised the refugees for their “courage” and said the conversation would help inform U.S. assistance efforts.

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No breakthrough in Ukraine-Russia talks

ANTALYA, Turkey — Ukraine’s foreign minister says talks between the top diplomats of Moscow and Kyiv produced no breakthrough on ending the war in Ukraine following Russia’s invasion.

Turkey Russia Ukraine War

Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, left, is welcomed by his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu ahead of their tripartite meeting with Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, in Antalya, Turkey on Thursday. Cem Ozdel/Turkish Foreign Ministry via Associated Press

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said he attended the meeting Thursday with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Turkey to discuss humanitarian corridors and a cease-fire.


Kuleba said there are “other decision-makers” in Russia who need to be consulted, adding that he agreed with Lavrov to continue to seek a solution to humanitarian issues caused by the war.

He said Moscow is not ready to offer a cease-fire. He said: “They seek Ukraine’s surrender. This is not going to happen.”

Kuleba said “the last thing” he wanted was to kill hope for Ukrainians seeking safe passage out of cities besieged by Russian bombardments and attacks.

Putin not welcome at Davos economic forum

GENEVA — The World Economic Forum, best known as the host of an annual meeting of elites in Davos, Switzerland, says it’s freezing all its relations with Russian entities following the invasion of Ukraine.

Russian President Vladimir Putin last participated in the event at a virtual “Davos Agenda” meeting in January 2021. Previously, he attended the event in person.


The forum said in a statement Thursday that it “will not engage with any sanctioned individual or institution in any of our activities,” including the annual meeting.

Russia and Belarus were also suspended Thursday from another international forum: the Northern Dimension, which includes the European Union, Iceland and Norway.

British directors of Chinese telecom giant quit over failure to criticize invasion of Ukraine

LONDON — Two British directors on the board of Chinese telecom equipment giant Huawei’s British subsidiary have quit, with news reports saying the resignations were prompted by the company’s failure to criticize Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Sir Andrew Cahn and Sir Ken Olisa resigned on Wednesday.

Sky News, citing unidentified sources, said Cahn and Olisa had urged Huawei to criticize Putin “but the company refused.” The British Broadcasting Corp. said the company’s silence “made their positions untenable” but gave no indication whether they asked Huawei to criticize the Russian attack.


The Chinese government has declined to join other governments in criticizing the Kremlin and blames Washington for the Feb. 24 invasion.

Huawei Technologies Ltd. is the world’s biggest maker of switching equipment for phone and internet carriers.

Hilton, Hugo Boss are latest brands to close Russian businesses

LONDON — German fashion brand Hugo Boss and U.S. hotel chain Hilton are the latest brands to pause their Russian businesses over the Ukraine invasion.

Hugo Boss said Thursday that it has temporarily closed its stores and suspended its own retail and e-commerce business activities in Russia. The company said it will give all affected employees “financial and operational support.”

Russia, along with Ukraine, accounted for about 3% of Hugo Boss’s total sales last year.


The Hilton hotel chain said it’s closing its corporate office in Moscow and suspending new hotel development in Russia. Russian workers will continue to be paid, the company said.

Hilton’s 26 hotels in Russia remain open. They are owned and operated by franchisees, but Hilton said it is donating any profits from those hotels to relief efforts in Ukraine. Hilton said it has also donated up to 1 million room nights to support Ukrainian refugees.

Wall Street titan Citigroup also said Wednesday it would wind down its Russian banking business and will be “operating the business on a more limited basis” until a sale happens.

Uniqlo will temporarily close stores, bowing to backlash

TOKYO — Japanese clothing chain Uniqlo is temporarily closing in Russia, following a social backlash over reported comments by a top executive that its 49 stores will stay open.

Earlier this week, Fast Retailing Chief Executive Tadashi Yanai was quoted as saying in Japanese business daily Nikkei that Uniqlo would stay open in Russia because Russians had as much right to everyday clothes as anyone else.


That comment, coming after other major consumer brands like Zara, Coca-Cola, Apple and McDonald’s left Russia, prompted public criticism, including calls for a boycott on social media.

“Uniqlo has made everyday clothing available to the general public in Russia, too, as part of our mission. However, we have recently faced a number of difficulties, including operational challenges and the worsening of the conflict situation,” said Fast Retailing Co., the holding company for several clothing brands, including Uniqlo.

Fast Retailing has donated clothing and $10 million through the UN refugee program.

Cyprus will no longer let Russian warships to dock

NICOSIA, Cyprus — Cyprus’ government says it rescinded clearances for four Russian warships to dock in the east Mediterranean island nation’s ports last week.

Cyprus Foreign Ministry Spokesman Demetris Demetriou told The Associated Press on Thursday that the Cypriot government made the decision “given the current political context and the military invasion of the Ukraine by Russia.”


Demetriou said the clearances for the ships to refuel and resupply had been issued prior to Russia’s invasion.

“No particular issues were raised by the Russian side” once the clearances were rescinded, Demetriou said.

UK bans, freezes assets of more oligarchs

LONDON — Britain has imposed a travel ban and asset freezes on seven more wealthy Russians, including Roman Abramovich, the billionaire owner of Premier League soccer club Chelsea.

The government said Thursday that Abramovich’s assets are frozen, he is banned from visiting the U.K. and he is barred from transactions with U.K. individuals and businesses.

Abramovich said last week he was trying to sell Chelsea as the threat of sanctions loomed.


Also added to the U.K. sanctions list are industrialist Oleg Deripaska and Rosneft chief executive Igor Sechin.

The sanctions are being imposed in response to Russia’s invasion of neighboring Ukraine.

Head of UN nuclear agency heading to talks on safety of Ukraine facilities

BERLIN — The head of the U.N. nuclear agency says he’s en route to Turkey for talks on ensuring the safety of Ukraine’s nuclear facilities.

Rafael Grossi, the director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, was invited to Antalya, Turkey by Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu. Also in Antalya on Thursday, the Russian and Ukrainian foreign ministers are scheduled to hold talks on the sidelines of a diplomacy forum.

Grossi didn’t give details of his own planned meetings in a tweet that showed him sitting on a plane.


The IAEA chief has been pressing for an agreement with Ukraine and Russia on the safety of Ukraine’s nuclear power plants.

A growing list of concerns includes a power cut at the decommissioned Chernobyl plant as well as limited communications between Ukraine’s nuclear regulator and both Chernobyl and the Zaporizhzhia power plant, which Russian forces seized last week.

In addition, the IAEA says it has lost direct transmission of data from systems installed to monitor nuclear material at both Chernobyl and Zaporizhzhia. It says the reasons for the disruption aren’t immediately clear.

Ukraine has 15 nuclear reactors, eight of which were operating as of Wednesday.

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