This story originated in VOA's Ukrainian Service. Some information is from AP.
WASHINGTON - Congressional and State Department officials on Tuesday preliminarily approved a $39-million sale of shoulder-launched Javelin anti-tank missiles to Ukraine to help the country battle Russia-backed separatists.
First reported by Bloomberg News, the sale of 150 missiles and two additional launchers comes months after Ukraine requested the additional batch of Javelins earlier this year.
Ukraine received its first batch of 200 Javelin missiles and 37 launch units in April 2018, a $47-million transaction that occurred under the administration of then-Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko.
While officials told Bloomberg the impending $39-million sale is not linked to the military aid package that was delayed by President Donald Trump as he allegedly pressured Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to investigate a political rival, the sale follows the late-September release of a $391-million aid package that Ukrainian officials were obligated to spend by Sept. 30.
On Wednesday, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo acknowledged he was on the telephone call between Trump and Zelenskiy that triggered the presidential impeachment investigation. The probe already has resulted in the resignation of former U.S. envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker, who, along with former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, is expected to testify Thursday before the House intelligence, oversight and foreign affairs committees.
Javelin missiles are manufactured by a joint venture of Lockheed Martin, based in North Bethesda, Maryland, and Raytheon Co., which has headquarters in Waltham, Massachusetts. The Javelin systems, however, are produced at a facility in Tucson, Arizona.
Volker, who was appointed special envoy by former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in 2017, had an unusual arrangement with the State Department. As a former U.S. Ambassador to NATO, Volker assumed the part-time, unpaid special envoy role, while maintaining his paid work as executive director of Arizona State University's McCain Institute in Washington.
A Politico story published last week suggested a conflict of interest, reporting that Raytheon had links to the McCain Institute and a lobbying firm for which Volker worked.
Ukrainian calls specifically for the lightweight, shoulder-fired Javelins, however, date back to at least 2015.
"The push to provide Ukraine with man-portable anti-armor weapons, i.e., Javelin missiles, significantly predates Amb. Volker's appointment as special envoy," former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Steven Pifer recently told Patrick Tucker of Defense One magazine.
"I visited the Ukrainian field headquarters for military operations in Donbas in January 2015. I specifically asked the Ukrainian headquarters staff if they sought Javelins, and they shouted back da, da, Javelins' (yes, yes, Javelins'). President Obama chose not to act on that recommendation, in part, I believe, because German Chancellor Merkel, who was just about to convene the Minsk meeting with Presidents Putin and Poroshenko, asked him not to provide lethal assistance."
The U.S. has been providing military aid to Ukraine since Russia invaded its neighbor following the ouster of a Kremlin-backed president in 2014.