Voice of America — April 17, 2014
The United States will send additional non-lethal military support to Ukraine, U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said on Thursday, in the latest U.S. move to reassure allies following Russia’s annexation of Crimea and a buildup of Russian forces on the Ukrainian border.
“Earlier this morning I called Ukraine’s acting defense minister to tell him that President Obama has approved additional non-lethal military assistance for health and welfare items and other supplies,” Hagel said, speaking at a Pentagon news conference after talks with Polish Defense Minister Tomasz Siemoniak.
The new support follows NATO’s announcement on Wednesday that it would send more ships, planes and troops to eastern Europe “within days” but made clear it will not intervene militarily in Ukraine, which is not a NATO member.
The news came as international talks on Ukraine are under way in Geneva, where the United States said earlier it would look for any signs Russia is serious about de-escalating tensions.
The talks involve the foreign ministers of Ukraine, Russia, the United States, and the European Union.
In an interview Wednesday with CBS television, President Barack Obama said there will be consequences each time Russia takes steps to destabilize Ukraine and violate its sovereignty. But Obama said he is convinced Russia is not looking for a war.
Moscow has said it has the right to protect Russian speakers in Ukraine. It accuses the new Ukrainian leadership of being anti-Russian and anti-Semitic and of threatening the rights of pro-Russians.
But senior U.N. human rights official Ivan Simonvic told the Security Council Wednesday that during two trips to Ukraine in March, his team found no widespread attacks against ethnic-Russians.
Moscow calls the U.N. report biased and unfounded.
U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power dismissed the Russian criticism, saying there is substantial evidence of Russian involvement in the unrest in eastern Ukraine. She called it a well-orchestrated professional campaign of incitement and sabotage.
Masked pro-Russians seized armored vehicles from the Ukrainian army Wednesday near Slovyansk. The Ukrainian troops did not resist. There are reports of some Ukrainian soldiers switching sides when confronted by the pro-Russians.
Russian speakers have taken over Ukrainian government buildings in nearly a dozen eastern towns and cities. The Ukrainian army has launched what it calls an anti-terrorist operation to retake the buildings, but it is unclear how much fighting is actually taking place.