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Ambassador on 'impact' of delays getting U.S. aid to Ukraine, says democracy can be 'a little ugly'

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The standstill in the U.S. Congress preventing a US$95.3-billion aid package from being approved is “having an impact,” but American Ambassador to Canada David Cohen insists the aid will get to Ukraine.

“The delay is having an impact, period,” Cohen told CTV’s Question Period host Vassy Kapelos in an interview airing Sunday, echoing statements made by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg this week.

The aid package — which, if approved, would go to Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan — has been passed in the Senate, but stalled before Congress.

U.S. President Joe Biden this week urged Congress to approve the funds, saying “supporting this bill is standing up to Putin,” and “opposing it is playing into Putin’s hands.”

Meanwhile, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is nearing the two-year mark.

“This is not a partisan issue in the United States,” Cohen said. “Look at what happened in the United States Senate, a very significant multi-year aid package for Ukraine, for Israel, for Taiwan, with 70 votes, a total bipartisan effort led by Republican Mitch McConnell and by Democrat Chuck Schumer.”

“What everyone is saying is right, which is if that package gets on the floor of the House, it will pass with a bipartisan vote,” he added.

Cohen also said the United States under Biden has taken on a “leadership position” when it comes to aid for Ukraine, and “what has (already) been delivered is remarkable.”

When asked what message Putin should take from the delay in approving the aid package, the ambassador said the Russian president is “smart enough to know that he shouldn't take any comfort from the difficulty of the democratic process,” adding that domestic “political fissures” in the United States have “nothing to do with Russia or Ukraine.”

“And that is one of the prices we pay for democracy, it can sometimes be a little ugly,” Cohen said. “But I do believe that ultimately, democracy gets to the right answer.”

“And the right answer here is going to be continuing support for Ukraine for as long as it takes,” he added.

Cohen’s interview comes on the heels of news that Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny — Russian President Vladimir Putin’s fiercest critic — died in prison.

The 47-year-old was serving a 19-year sentence on charges of extremism.

Cohen said Navalny’s death is a “stark reminder of just how evil and dangerous Vladimir Putin is,” while adding the U.S. has not independently confirmed the news.

“We're operating on media reports,” he said. “But if true, I have to start with what a terrible loss this is, and a terrible loss to his family, and would extend my condolences and my country's condolences to his family.

“And I think it's another example of the brutality of Vladimir Putin. It's another example of what is so important about pushing back on Russia, and on Putin,” he added.

With files from CTV’s Question Period Senior Producer Stephanie Ha

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