Senate GOP trio: Obama should arm Ukraine

Republican senators are renewing their calls for the Obama administration to grant Ukraine's request for lethal weapons.

The senators say Russia is continuing to arm insurgents, and that Ukraine’s government needs the help.

“The administration needs to provide the military and the lethal support that the Ukrainian military has asked [for] so that they can defend themselves against Russian aggression,” Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) said Tuesday.  

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“The one thing I would do very quickly is start coming up with a plan to arm and train the Ukrainian government,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). 

“It's shameful that we won't give them weapons with which to defend themselves,” Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) added. 

The U.S. and European Union levied a new round of tougher sanctions on Russia this week, but the GOP lawmakers say the U.S. should also provide arms to Ukraine to prevent further aggression from Russia.

Ukraine's defense minister on Monday asked for additional military assistance, but defense officials have declined to say what specifically has been requested.

Ayotte said Ukraine has requested anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons, among a number of lethal weapons. 

“They've had for months a list to us,” she said. “I've co-sponsored legislation that would give them anti-aircraft, anti-tanks, small arms support and also they need the intelligence to be able to defend against Russian attacks on their sovereignty, and the Russian-supported attacks by the separatists.”

Ayotte’s bill would provide Ukraine forces with anti-tank weapons and ammunition; anti-aircraft weapons and ammunition; small arms and ammunition including pistols, submachine guns, assault rifles, grenade launchers, machine guns and sniper rifles; armored vehicles, inflatable boats, body armor, explosive disposal and improvised explosive device detection equipment and mine detection equipment.

So far, the U.S. has only provided non-lethal aid. 

Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson (Fla.) on Wednesday also urged the Obama administration to begin providing military aid to Ukraine.

“They obviously are in this for their survival and I think it's going to take the support of the United States not just with things like MREs and canteens. Not just things like education and training,” he said after a hearing on Ukraine. 

“I think it's going to boil down over the course of the next six months that we need to supply them with the weapons so that they can protect themselves,” added Nelson.

This story was updated at 4:15 p.m. 

Martin Matishak contributed.