Aimed at building its ‘defence capacity’; Moscow says it will lead to ‘new bloodshed’
The U.S. announced on Friday that it would provide Ukraine with “enhanced defensive capabilities”, a move that could escalate a conflict between government forces and pro-Russian separatists that has claimed more than 10,000 lives since 2014.
“The United States has decided to provide Ukraine enhanced defensive capabilities as part of our effort to help Ukraine build its long-term defence capacity, to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity, and to deter further aggression,” a State Department statement said.
210 anti-tank misiles
An ABC news report before the announcement said the U.S. planned to supply Ukraine with anti-tank missiles, including possibly the advanced Javelin system, quoting four State Department officials. “The total defence package of $47 million includes the sale of 210 anti-tank missiles and 35 launchers. Additional supplies will need to be purchased,” the report added.
The announcement came a day after EU leaders agreed to extend tough economic sanctions against Moscow over its meddling in Ukraine for six months.
Earlier this month, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson warned Russia that the stand-off over Ukraine was the single most important obstacle to warmer ties between the two countries.
In its response, Moscow warned on Saturday that Washington was encouraging “new bloodshed” in eastern Ukraine. The stern Moscow warning came after a new ceasefire deal between Ukraine and pro-Russian rebels went into effect from midnight on Saturday ahead of the New Year and Orthodox Christmas holidays.
In a strongly-worded statement, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov accused the United States of “crossing the line” and fomenting the conflict in eastern Ukraine, a region known locally as Donbass. Another deputy foreign minister, Grigory Karasin, said the U.S. move would undermine efforts to reach a political settlement in Ukraine. He reiterated Russia’s position that Ukrainian authorities should negotiate with Kremlin-backed rebels through “honest and direct dialogue”.
Ukraine welcomed Washington’s announcement, saying it would help contain “the aggressor”.
“Finally!” Ukrainian Ambassador to the United States Valeriy Chaly wrote on Facebook.
“Our strategic partners — the United States — have definitively made up their mind: as a sovereign state, Ukraine has a legitimate right to buy and receive defensive weapons including lethal weapons,” he said.