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Zelensky abruptly cancels US Senate address as aid for Ukraine war hits dead end

Volodymyr Zelensky unexpectedly cancelled his address to the US Senate where he would have appealed for fresh aid for the war in Ukraine, majority leader Chuck Schumer said on Tuesday.

Kyiv’s calls for multi-billion dollar military funding have been rejected by the Congress, leaving Ukraine out in the cold.

The war-time president has been pleading with his allies in the West for financial and military help against Russian forces as Moscow’s invasion clocked 650 days. The US is now showing signs of fatigue and disapproval for funding the war.

The calls for aid for Ukraine clashed with the Republicans’ demand for additional border funding, halting any further inflow of money into the war.

Mr Schumer said the Ukrainian leader cancelled his virtual appearance at the Senate’s closed-door briefing after “something came up at the last minute”. Earlier in the day, the US House majority leader said Mr Zelensky was scheduled to give a classified briefing and address the senators by video.

President Joe Biden’s administration had invited Mr Zelensky to address the senators so they “could hear directly from him precisely what is at stake”.

Ukraine could soon find itself without US help as the clock is ticking on the $106bn funding request from the White House for the wars in Ukraine, Israel, and other security needs without support from Republicans.

The US has already run out of money that it has used to prop up Ukraine’s economy, and “if Ukraine’s economy collapses, they will not be able to keep fighting, full stop”, said Shalanda Young, Office of Management and Budget director, in a letter to House and Senate leaders.

She warned that the US will run out of funding to send weapons and assistance to Ukraine by the end of the year, saying that would "kneecap" Ukraine on the battlefield.

"We are out of money – and nearly out of time," she wrote in the letter.

The Biden administration sent an urgent warning on Monday about the need to approve the military and economic assistance to Ukraine, saying Kyiv’s war effort to defend itself from Russia’s invasion may grind to a halt without it.

The blockade from the US – Kyiv’s primary ally against Russian invasion for 22 months – spells dangers of Russia’s advance on the battlefield as Moscow’s troops pick up pace after getting military help from North Korea and Iran in recent shipments.

Any postponement of aid from the US would create the “big risk” that Ukraine will lose the nearly two years of Russia’s war on its territory, Mr Zelensky’s chief of staff said.

If the aid is postponed, "it gives the big risk that we can be in the same position to which we’re located now," Andriy Yermak said. "And of course, it makes this very high possibility impossible to continually liberate and give the big risk to lose this war."

If Ukraine loses, the US would be responsible for the defeat, US treasury secretary Janet Yellen said.

"I’ve talked to members of Congress, my colleagues have. I think they understand that this is a dire situation and we can hold ourselves responsible for Ukraine’s defeat if we don’t manage to get this funding to Ukraine that’s needed, and I’m including direct budget support here because that’s utterly essential," Ms Yellen said.

The funding, especially for Ukraine’s general government budget support, was “utterly essential” and a pre-condition to keep the International Monetary Fund support flowing to Ukraine.

“Ukraine is just running out of money,” she said, adding that the war-hit nation would cease to have any schools or hospitals if the US doesn’t financially back them as they are “spending more than every penny they’re taking in, in tax revenue, on military salaries and defence”.

Congress already has allocated $111bn (£88bn) to assist Ukraine, including $67bn (£53bn) in military procurement funding, $27bn (£21bn) for economic and civil assistance and $10bn (£7.9bn) for humanitarian aid. Ms Young wrote that all of it, other than about 3 per cent of the military funding, had been depleted by mid-November.

The war in Ukraine has entered its second winter where military experts and officials monitoring the war are anticipating a fresh round of heavy Russian missile attacks on Kyiv’s civilian and energy infrastructure to shadow the war-hit nation in dark and sub-zero temperatures.

The military aid, financial help, training of troops and ammunition tranches from the US and other western allies has kept Ukraine afloat so far but the battlefield has not shifted this year despite heavy fighting.