In an Oval Office signing ceremony for the Ukraine Democracy Defense Lend-Lease Act on Monday afternoon, Biden said, “The atrocities that the Russians are engaging in are just beyond the pale.”
“I’m signing a bill that provides another important tool in our efforts to support the government of Ukraine and the Ukrainian people in their fight to defend their country and their democracy against (Russian President Vladimir) Putin’s brutal war — and it is brutal ,” Biden said while flanked alongside Vice President Kamala Harris and the bill’s sponsors, Indiana Republican Rep. Victoria Spartaz, Michigan Democratic Rep. Elissa Slotkin and Maryland Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Putin’s claims about NATO “creating threats next to our border” were “patently false and absurd.”
“What we saw President Putin do is give a version of revisionist history that took the form of disinformation that we have seen too commonly as the Russian playbook,” Psaki told reporters at the White House.
In the Oval Office signing, Biden noted that Sunday was VE Day, which marks the end of WWII in Europe, and Monday is Europe Day, which marks the anniversary of the effort at European integration that produced the European Union. And he blasted Putin for using the war to bring “wanton destruction into Europe.”
The new law, which eases some of the requirements for the US to lend or lease military equipment to Ukraine, passed with a bipartisan majority in the US House and Senate. Its sponsors say the legislation gives Biden much broader authority to help Ukraine defend itself against Russia and addresses how the US can get weapons to Ukraine faster.
“This legislation will allow us to timely provide the necessary defensive equipment for Ukraine to defend itself against Mr. Putin’s aggression. It also is a clear message to our NATO allies that they need to step up even more as we look forward to how we can make sure Ukraine is successful in this military operation that that Mr. Putin initiated,” Cardin said last month following the bill’s passage.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, was noncommittal when asked last week if Democrats would seek to tie together the stalled $10 billion Covid-19 relief bill with $33 billion in funding for Ukraine.
The Ukraine aid package is still being drafted, but Senate Republicans have insisted the two bills move on separate tracks in order to pass the Ukraine bill quickly — and Biden has told congressional leaders to move the Ukraine aid package first without the $10 billion in Covid aid, according to a congressional source.
The White House doesn’t want the Ukraine package bogged down in the chamber, even though Democrats had been pushing to tie the two together over fears that the US response to the pandemic could be set back.
Democrats are now expected to move both separately, starting in the House, and as soon as this week.
This story has been updated with additional reporting.
CNN’s Manu Raju, Ryan Nobles, Ali Zaslav, Daniella Diaz and DJ Judd contributed to this report.