A US diplomat to Ukraine says Washington will provide Kiev with more lethal weapons to help build up its naval and air forces in the face of what they call Russian threat.
US Special Envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker told The Guardian that the administration of President Donald Trump was “absolutely” prepared to go further in supplying such weaponry to Ukraine.
The West accuses Moscow of providing support for the pro-Russia forces fighting in eastern Ukraine, a charge Russia resolutely denies.
“They [Ukrainians] are losing soldiers every week defending their own country,” said Volker. “And so in that context it’s natural for Ukraine to build up its military, engage in self-defense, and it’s natural to seek assistance and is natural that other countries should help them. And of course they need lethal assistance because they’re being shot at.”
He said Kiev and Washington are engaged in negotiations “about naval capability because as you know their navy was basically taken by Russia.”
“And so they need to rebuild a navy and they have very limited air capability as well. I think we’ll have to look at air defense,” he added.
Earlier this year, Congress approved $250 million in military support to Ukraine in 2019. Congress had voted for such measure in the past, but was blocked by the Obama administration amid concerns about an escalation from Russia. The Trump administration lifted the Obama-era restraint last December and approved the shipment of lethal weaponry.
Russia has warned at the time that the US was “crossing the line” by providing Ukraine with lethal weapons, saying Washington is practically pushing Kiev into “new bloodshed.”
Moscow also warned Washington about the consequences of supplying arms to Ukraine, saying that the weapons would provoke “hotheads” among Ukrainian nationalists to seek to unleash new bloodshed in the country’s troubled east.
The conflict broke out in Ukraine following the ouster of the pro-Russia President Viktor Yanukovych in February 2014, and intensified after people in the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea voted for reunification with the Russian Federation in a referendum in March 2014.