The United States will provide Ukrainian forces fighting Russia-backed separatists $75 million in nonlethal equipment, including small reconnaissance drones, radios and military ambulances, a senior administration official said.
President Obama has also approved the transfer of 30 armored Humvees and up to 200 unarmored Humvees under a separate authority, said the official, who was not authorized to speak publicly on the matter and requested anonymity.
“We have said from the outset of the crisis in Ukraine that the United States supports the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine,” the official said. “We have been working together with our European and other international partners to achieve a diplomatic solution to this crisis.”
The aid comes amid an ongoing debate inside the administration and Congress over whether the U.S. should start providing defensive weapons to the Ukrainian forces to try to force Moscow to withdraw its support for the separatist insurgency.
Despite a cease-fire negotiated by leaders of Germany, France, Russia and Ukraine on Feb. 12, fighting has continued in parts of Ukraine. An estimated 6,000 people have died since fighting broke out 11 months ago after Russia's seizure and annexation of Ukraine's Crimea territory.
“While we continue to believe that there is no military resolution to this crisis, Ukraine has the right to defend itself,” the official said.
Many in the U.S. government, including lawmakers, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter and James Clapper, director of National Intelligence, have publicly advocated providing lethal arms to Ukraine.
Thus far, the U.S. has given only nonlethal aid to Ukraine’s military, including medicine, night-vision goggles and armored vests since the conflict erupted. As many as 300 American troops are also to be sent to the Lviv region on Ukraine's western border, far from the conflict zone, to train Ukrainian soldiers.
The White House approved the new allocation of $75 million through the Pentagon’s European Reassurance Initiative funds. The Pentagon expects the equipment to arrive in six to nine months.
The package includes counter-mortar radars for warning and protection against mortar and artillery fire and night-vision devices. It also includes small remote-controlled Raven drones, made by AeroVironment Inc. in Simi Valley, that are thrown into the air by soldiers and provide a bird's-eye view of what's happening over a ridge or around a bend.
Also Wednesday, the Treasury Department announced new sanctions targeting eight Ukrainian separatists, a Russian pro-separatist organization and a bank that has become the largest in Crimea since Russia seized the area from Ukraine.
The sanctions freeze all assets held on U.S. property and prohibit Americans from doing business with them.
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