US VP Harris announces $1.5 billion in Ukraine aid at Switzerland peace summit

By Steve Holland

LUCERNE, Switzerland (Reuters) -U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris pledged America’s unwavering support for Ukraine and announced more than $1.5 billion in aid for the country’s energy sector and its humanitarian situation as a result of Russia’s 27-month invasion.

Harris made the announcement at the Ukraine peace summit in Lucerne, Switzerland, where she met with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy. She is expected to address the summit’s plenary session at 5.30 pm CEST/11.30 am EST.

“This war remains an utter failure for (Russian President Vladimir) Putin,” Harris said during a bilateral meeting with Zelenskiy. “It is in our interest to uphold international norms,” she added, pledging U.S. support for the country.

The $1.5 billion includes $500 million in new funding for energy assistance and the redirecting of $324 million in previously announced funds toward emergency energy infrastructure repair and other needs in Ukraine, the vice president’s office said.

“These efforts will help Ukraine respond to Russia’s latest attacks on Ukraine energy infrastructure by supporting repair and recovery, improving Ukraine’s resilience to energy supply disruptions, and laying the groundwork to repair and expand Ukraine’s energy system,” Harris’ office said.

She also announced more than $379 million in humanitarian assistance from the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development to help refugees and other people impacted by the war.

The money is to cover food assistance, health services, shelter, and water, sanitation and hygiene services for millions of Ukrainians.

Harris, who will spend less than 24 hours at the gathering will be standing in for President Joe Biden at the event. The president will be just ending his participation at the G7 summit in Italy and returning to the United States to attend a fundraiser for his reelection campaign in Los Angeles.

Biden met with Zelenskiy both at the G7 summit, where they signed a U.S.-Ukraine bilateral security agreement, and in France for events surrounding the 80th anniversary of the World War Two D-Day invasion.

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan will represent the United States at the summit on Sunday and help establish working groups on returning Ukrainian children from Russia and on energy security.

(Reporting by Steve Holland in Switzerl and Nandita Bose in Washington; Editing by Leslie Adler and Diane Craft)