Mattis in Kyiv to Celebrate Ukraine’s Independence Day
26 years of freedom….
On August 24, 1991, Ukraine formally achieved independence from the USSR. But since 2014, each independence day becomes more important since Russia annexed Crimea and war continues in the east.
This year, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis is in Kyiv to celebrate with the Ukrainians and to show U.S. support for the country. From Reuters:
U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on a visit to Ukraine on Thursday said Washington would keep up pressure on Russia over what he called its aggressive behavior and signaled his personal support for providing weapons to Kiev.
Mattis said Russia had not abided by the Minsk ceasefire agreement meant to end the separatist conflict in eastern Ukraine and that the United States would maintain sanctions on Moscow.
“Despite Russia’s denials, we know they are seeking to redraw international borders by force, undermining the sovereign and free nations of Europe,” Mattis told reporters, alongside Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko.
While emphasizing Trump had yet to take a decision on the issue, Mattis signaled his personal support for a longstanding Ukrainian request for defensive weapons, which could include anti-tank Javelin missiles and anti-aircaft systems.
Mattis also played down fears, voiced by the previous White House administration under Barack Obama, that supplying weapons could escalate the situation.
“On the defensive lethal weapons, we are actively reviewing it, I will go back now having seen the current situation and be able to inform the secretary of state and the president in very specific terms what I recommend for the direction ahead,” Mattis said.
“Defensive weapons are not provocative unless you are an aggressor and clearly Ukraine is not an aggressor since it is their own territory where the fighting is happening,” Mattis said.
Poroshenko said he was “satisfied” with the progress on discussions about weapons, and also said he and Mattis had discussed the possibility of a U.N.-backed armed force being sent to eastern Ukraine.
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