US says it will provide Ukraine with 'defensive' aid

WASHINGTON, Dec 22 (Reuters) - The United States will provide Ukraine with "enhanced defensive capabilities," the State Department said on Friday, as Kiev battles Russian-backed separatists in the eastern part of the country.

"U.S. assistance is entirely defensive in nature, and as we have always said, Ukraine is a sovereign country and has a right to defend itself," the department said in a statement.

Earlier on Friday, ABC News reported that President Donald Trump was expected to approve the sale of anti-tank missiles to Ukraine, citing State Department sources. Any sale would need Congressional approval.

8 PHOTOS
Defense Secretary Mattis visits Ukraine
See Gallery
Defense Secretary Mattis visits Ukraine
U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Ukraine's Defence Minister Stepan Poltorak walk past honour guards during a welcoming ceremony in Kiev, Ukraine August 24, 2017. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich
U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Ukraine's Defence Minister Stepan Poltorak attend a welcoming ceremony in Kiev, Ukraine August 24, 2017. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich
U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis (R) and Ukraine's Defence Minister Stepan Poltorak attend a welcoming ceremony in Kiev, Ukraine August 24, 2017. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko (R) and U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis attend a meeting with journalists in Kiev, Ukraine August 24, 2017. Mikhail Palinchak/Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Pool via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko (R) speaks with U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis during a meeting in Kiev, Ukraine August 24, 2017. Mikhail Palinchak/Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Pool via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.
U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis (L) speaks with Ukraine's Defence Minister Stepan Poltorak before a military parade marking Ukraine's Independence Day in Kiev, Ukraine August 24, 2017. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich
U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko attend a military parade marking Ukraine's Independence Day in Kiev, Ukraine August 24, 2017. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko (R) meets with U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis in Kiev, Ukraine August 24, 2017. Mykola Lazarenko/Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Pool via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

On Monday, the Russian foreign ministry said it was recalling officers serving at the Joint Centre for Control and Coordination (JCCC) in Ukraine, accusing the Ukrainian side of obstructing their work and limiting access to the front line.

Ukrainian officials, security monitors and Kiev's foreign backers warned on Wednesday that Moscow's decision to withdraw from a Ukrainian-Russian ceasefire control group could worsen the fighting in eastern Ukraine.

Earlier this week the State Department approved an export license for Ukraine to buy certain light weapons and small arms from U.S. manufacturers.

Senator John McCain on Wednesday welcomed the small arms sale. McCain, a Republican, urged the president "to authorize additional sales of defensive lethal weapons, including anti-tank munitions, and to fully utilize security assistance funds provided by the Congress to enable Ukraine to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity." (Reporting by Eric Beech and Chris Sanders; Editing by Lisa Shumaker and Leslie Adler)

Read Full Story

Sign up for Breaking News by AOL to get the latest breaking news alerts and updates delivered straight to your inbox.

Subscribe to our other newsletters

Emails may offer personalized content or ads. Learn more. You may unsubscribe any time.