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US to Send More Non-lethal Aid to Ukraine

  • VOA News

FILE - Ukrainian servicemen, pushed by pro-Russia rebels out of Debaltseve, are seen at new positions near Artemivsk, Donetsk region, Ukraine, Feb. 19, 2015.

FILE - Ukrainian servicemen, pushed by pro-Russia rebels out of Debaltseve, are seen at new positions near Artemivsk, Donetsk region, Ukraine, Feb. 19, 2015.

The U.S. has announced an additional $75 million in non-lethal aid, including more than 200 four-wheel-drive military vehicles - Humvees - to help the government of Ukraine fight pro-Russian separatist rebels in the country’s east.

Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter detailed the aid package in a press briefing at the Pentagon with British counterpart Michael Fallon.

“This brings U.S. security assistance to Ukraine to a total of nearly $200 million, with the new funds going towards unmanned aerial vehicles for improved surveillance,” said Carter.

The new funds from the U.S. also will provide Ukraine with a variety of radios, anti-mortar radars, night vision devices, military ambulances and medical supplies.

The new aid does not include the weapons that Ukraine has sought and that many Obama administration officials and members of both parties in Congress have urged President Barack Obama to provide.

The announcement of the package coincides with ongoing U.S. military training exercises with NATO allies in eastern Europe staged in response to what the alliance sees as increasingly aggressive moves by Russia.

British Defense Minister Michael Fallon vowed resolve on the part of NATO.

“We’re working together to, as Secretary Carter has said, in Europe, demonstrating our resolve through NATO to protect all members of the alliance and with the European Union in delivering sanctions that show Russia the cost of flouting international norms.”

More sanctions

The United States has imposed sanctions on another group of individuals and entities in Ukraine and Russia accused of "undermining Ukraine's sovereignty" and misappropriating Ukrainian state assets.

The U.S. Treasury Department released a list Wednesday of 14 people, including eight Ukrainian separatists, and two entities, including Russian National Commercial Bank, a Russian bank operating in Crimea, the Black Sea-peninsula Moscow annexed from Ukraine last year.

All will be subject to sanctions, meaning U.S. assets belonging to those on the list will be frozen, and the listed individuals will be forbidden from traveling to the United States.

The Treasury Department said attacks last month by Russia-backed separatists on two eastern Ukrainian cities "constitute violations of the letter and spirit" of cease-fire agreements signed in February and last September.

Among the individuals listed are eight military and political officials of the Donetsk and Luhansk "people's republics," the self-proclaimed separatist entities in eastern Ukraine's Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

Also on the list is Alexander Dugin, a far-right Russian political scientist. His Eurasian Youth Union, which is also subject to sanctions, is accused of recruiting fighters for the separatists in eastern Ukraine.

Three former top officials from the government of former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych are also among the newly sanctioned individuals. They are accused of misappropriating state funds.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov denounced the new sanctions Wednesday as a "political provocation," telling the Interfax news agency the measures were difficult to understand given U.S. declarations that it wants to "normalize" the situation in Ukraine.

New numbers on Russian troops

Also Wednesday, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Russia continues to maintain a "presence" in eastern Ukraine and give "strong support," including equipment and training, to the separatists there. He called on Russia to withdraw all of its military forces from eastern Ukraine.

Britain's Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) said in a report released Wednesday that large-scale Russian military intervention in Ukraine began last August, reaching a peak of 10,000 troops in December.

The report says approximately 42,000 Russian troops from 117 combat and combat-support units have been involved in the conflict, either stationed "in the vicinity" of the border with Ukraine, "delivering artillery fire against Ukrainian territory from Russian soil, or directly participating in combat operations on Ukrainian sovereign territory.

VOA's Carla Babb contributed to this report from the Pentagon.

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