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As the House approves over 60 billion dollars of aid, Ukrainians say the delay cost them

AYESHA RASCOE, HOST:

The house passage of more than $60 billion in aid to Ukraine has thrown the country a lifeline. But as NPR's Joanna Kakissis reports, the relief that Ukraine can live to fight another day is mixed with uneasiness over future U.S. assistance.

JOANNA KAKISSIS, BYLINE: Oleksandra Ustinova leads the Ukrainian parliament's committee on arms, and for months she urged House lawmakers to stop blocking military aid to her country. She warned repeatedly that Ukrainian troops are running out of ammunition as Russian forces are advancing. She despaired that no one was listening. Then came Saturday's vote.

OLEKSANDRA USTINOVA: I was literally crying. You cannot even imagine how important it is for us. We had nothing to shoot with. And now there is a green light at the end of the corridor.

KAKISSIS: Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said that Russia is firing 10 times more artillery shells than Ukraine can.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY: (Speaking Ukrainian).

KAKISSIS: In a video address on Saturday, he said that fresh ammunition will save Ukrainian troops on the front line and civilians under constant Russian bombardment, and he appealed to the U.S. to continue supporting Ukraine in the future.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ZELENSKYY: (Through interpreter) America showed its leadership from the first days of the war. It is this kind of American leadership that is vital to the preservation of a rules-based international order.

KAKISSIS: Ukraine's leaders have warned repeatedly that Russia's 2022 invasion of Ukraine threatens Europe and the West, and that Ukrainian soldiers cannot hold back the Russians alone.

VALENTYN ROMANIUK: (Speaking Ukrainian).

KAKISSIS: Twenty-two-year-old Valentyn Romaniuk saw this firsthand on the eastern front line, where his unit was outgunned. He lost his leg while fighting and is now learning to walk using a prosthetic limb. We met him on the streets of Kyiv, Ukraine's capital.

ROMANIUK: (Speaking Ukrainian).

KAKISSIS: He says delays in aid from our partners don't just cost lives, they cost limbs. And, he adds, with all the dead and injured, that leaves far fewer troops defending Ukraine. Another soldier, Anton Tarasov, spoke to NPR while on weekend leave from the front line. He looks forward to rejoining his unit now.

ANTON TARASOV: This is going to be a great spiritual push, a great emotional push, because the Russians - they were so encouraged all this time and all of their propaganda was saying, look, America has abandoned you. It's time to give up. Otherwise, we're going to kill you all.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: (Speaking Ukrainian).

KAKISSIS: The Ukrainian civilians also felt besieged in the months they waited for the House vote. Khrystyna Naridzhenyan is helping a customer at her family's grocery store in Kyiv. It was badly damaged by shrapnel from recent Russian missile attacks.

KHRYSTYNA NARIDZHENYAN: (Speaking Ukrainian).

KAKISSIS: She says this would not have happened if we had stronger air defense. Ukraine does not have enough air defense systems to intercept all Russian missiles and drones here.

SERHII BYKON: (Speaking Ukrainian).

KAKISSIS: At a park in Kyiv, Serhii Bykon, a 44-year-old IT specialist, is watching his young son run around a playground that was rebuilt after a Russian attack. He says this U.S. aid package should give Ukraine a fighting chance - for now. But he's not sure U.S. support will come through in the future, especially if the administration changes.

BYKON: (Speaking Ukrainian).

KAKISSIS: "There's so much uncertainty," he says. "That's why we cannot feel safe."

Joanna Kakissis, NPR News, with reporting from Polina Lytvynova and Hanna Palamarenko, in Kyiv. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Joanna Kakissis is a foreign correspondent based in Kyiv, Ukraine, where she reports poignant stories of a conflict that has upended millions of lives, affected global energy and food supplies and pitted NATO against Russia.
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