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US Approves Sale by US Manufacturers of Lethal Weapons to Ukraine

FILE - A Ukrainian soldier guards a position near Avdiivka, Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine, July 19, 2015.

The United States has approved the sale by U.S. manufacturers of lethal defensive weapons to Ukraine.

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert confirmed this week that Congress was notified of the matter on December 13.

The legal framework for U.S. manufacturers to sell arms to Ukraine has existed since the Obama administration, Nauert said.

Nauert noted in remarks to reporters Wednesday that the government itself was not supplying weapons to Ukraine, but only allowing U.S. weapons manufacturers to do so.

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The export license covers such weapons as semiautomatic and automatic firearms, the Reuters news agency reported. It includes combat shotguns, silencers, military scopes, flash suppressors and parts.

Administration officials said the equipment approved for sale was valued at $41.5 million. The Washington Post reported that there had been no approval for requests by Ukraine for heavier weapons, like Javelin anti-tank missiles. The newspaper also said Canada had approved similar sales to Ukraine this week.

Critics of the move say selling lethal arms to Ukraine threatens to escalate tensions between the United States and Russia.

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, on a trip to Kyiv in August, said the Trump administration was "actively reviewing" whether to provide lethal defensive weapons to the war-torn country.

"Defensive weapons are not provocative unless you're an aggressor, and clearly, Ukraine is not an aggressor," he said in response to a question about whether Russia might see such a move as a threat.

He also said Washington did not accept Russia's 2014 annexation of Crimea.