Was U.S. Aid for Ukraine in 2014 Really Sent to Russia?

False allegations about American aid to Ukraine circulated online long before 2022 — particularly after the approval of around $1 billion in loan guarantees for the Ukrainian government in March 2014.

That month, U.S. lawmakers approved H.R. 4152, an aid package that enjoyed bipartisan support and was also promoted as a check against aggression by Russia, which at that moment had recently invaded and annexed Crimea.

“This bill is a first step toward supporting the Ukrainians and our Central and Eastern European partners, and imposing truly significant costs on Moscow,” then-House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R) said at the time.

The announcement of the bill led to a chain email spreading that accused the U.S. of, in effect, sending the money to Russian interests; the email claimed that Ukraine would use that money to turn around and pay Russia for natural gas.

It is true that Russia raised its natural gas prices for Ukraine by 80 percent.

Less than two months later, the International Monetary Fund approved a $17 billion bailout package for Ukraine, which saw tensions with Russia increase further after its parliament vote to remove its leader Viktor Yanukovych, an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, amid demonstrations against Yanukovych’s government that turned deadly. Putin would go on to help Yanukovych escape from Ukraine in 2014.

But though H.R. 4152 provided that the American aid would go toward helping Ukraine develop more “economy, trade, and energy supplies,” it did not go toward paying Russia as part of that. As the bill made its way through Congress, then-U.S. President Barack Obama said that countries neighboring Russia “have deep concerns and suspicions” about Putin after his annexation of Crimea, which Obama said violated international law.

“Above all, we believe that the Ukrainian people should be able to decide their own future,” Obama said.

In March 2022, the IMF approved a separate $1.4 billion in emergency funding for Ukraine after it was invaded by Putin’s government, calling the Russian act of aggression “a massive humanitarian and economic crisis.”

That same month, the U.S. agreed to send $13.6 billion in financial and humanitarian aid to Ukraine. But this time, at least 30 Republican lawmakers accused President Joe Biden of not doing enough to help Ukraine after voting against the bill sending aid to the country.

“Some of them will find every way they can to criticize Joe Biden,” said Democratic Sen. Mazie Hirono of Hawaii. “And I think it’s more than ironic that the president that they continue to support withheld aid to Ukraine for political purposes.”

Update 3/21/2022, 3:43 p.m.: This article has been revamped and updated. You can review the original here. -ag