WHITE HOUSE — The Obama administration has suggested that Ukraine's operations against pro-Russian separatists are justified, but that the U.S. is not considering providing lethal assistance.
Without going as far as stating U.S. support for the Ukrainian government's decision to send in tanks and troops, White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters the United States appreciates Ukraine's pledge that it will act responsibly and gradually against the separatists who have taken over government buildings and other facilities.
“That said, the Ukrainian government has a responsibility to provide law and order, and these provocations in eastern Ukraine are creating a situation in which the government has to respond,” said Carney.
The Ukrainian government dispatched what it said are anti-terrorist forces to take back government buildings that armed pro-Russian militias have seized in the last few days.
Carney repeated U.S. warnings for Russia to pull back its troops from its border with Ukraine and engage in dialogue with the Ukrainian government.
He called the situation a dangerous and volatile one, and commended Ukraine for what he said has been its “measured” response.
The U.S. official said President Obama is considering expanding sanctions, including if Russia decides to send troops into Ukraine.
Carney said the U.S. administration is not considering sending lethal assistance to Ukraine at this time. He said the focus remains on diplomatic efforts to get Russia to stop supporting secessionists in Ukraine.
Diplomatic efforts will continue Thursday in Geneva, where U.S., Russian, Ukrainian and European Union officials will meet to discuss ways to de-escalate the crisis. U.S. officials have suggested more sanctions could come after that meeting if they do not reach an agreement with Russia.
Vice President Joe Biden heads to Kyiv next week to offer U.S. reassurances to the Ukrainian government.