Ukraine President Says Obama Approved Sending New Weapons

  • Former Soviet country expects to receive U.S. defense arms
  • U.S. may provide new Q36 counter battery radars this fall

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said Sunday on state television that U.S. President Barack Obama promised his country new models of defensive weapons amid a cease-fire with pro-Russian separatists.

Obama said he approved supplying counter-battery systems to the debt-troubled Ukraine, Poroshenko said, according to a transcript of the broadcast on his Web page. The weapons will be used to help Ukraine detect artillery and multiple rocket launch fire, according to a White House official, who requested anonymity to discuss the assistance.

Ukraine should receive new Q36 radars this fall, the U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt said on Twitter Sept. 30. Obama signed a memorandum last week authorizing an additional $20 million for “defense articles and services” for Ukrainian forces, a continuation of his administration’s provision of non-lethal support for Ukraine.

A cease-fire between Ukrainian forces and the separatists has held since the sides agreed on Oct. 2 to a light-weapons withdrawal during talks in Paris. But the agreement’s full implementation remains deadlocked over local elections in rebel-held territories in Ukraine’s easternmost regions, the issue of local autonomy, and the government’s intention to regain control over its border with Russia.

U.S.-Russian tensions have continued to escalate with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision last week to start airstrikes over Syria in defense of President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

The Ukrainian army has already received U.S. caliber sniper rifles, Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said on Facebook Sept. 29. The country needs new weapons badly, Poroshenko said.

Obama has resisted calls from lawmakers and members of his own national security team, including Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, to send lethal weapons to Ukrainian government forces. White House officials have said the Russians could capitalize on their proximity to Ukraine to deliver heavier weapons faster than the U.S. could.

The U.S. has provided nonlethal aid, such as radar, medical supplies and communications gear, as well as economic assistance and military training. That aid now totals $265.5 million, the administration official said.

The conflict in east Ukraine has killed more than 8,000 people and soured Russia’s relations with the U.S. and the European Union.

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