Obama offers military equipment to Ukraine

 

President Obama hailed Ukrainian president-elect Petro Poroshenko during a meeting with the billionaire chocolate magnate Wednesday in Warsaw and announced the U.S. would offer advanced military supplies to Ukraine.

Obama said Poroshenko's election represented the rejection of violence and corruption by the people of Ukraine.

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“Ukraine has gone through a very challenging time,” Obama said. “And what we have seen has been an incredible outpouring of democracy in the face of actions by Russia as well as armed militias in certain portions of the east who violate international law and international sovereignty.”

The president also announced $5 million in new military aid for Ukraine, including body armor, night vision goggles, and communications equipment.

That's an escalation from a previous $18 million in aid from the U.S., which has previously offered helmets, sleeping mats, water purification units, explosive ordnance disposal equipment, and handheld radios to Ukrainian forces battling pro-Russian separatists who have seized government buildings in the country’s eastern and southern provinces.

The president also said the U.S. would look to help train Ukrainian military personnel.

The commitment and the face-to-face meeting with Poroshenko were intended to signal U.S. support for the results of the election. On Tuesday, Obama called on Russian President Vladimir Putin to also meet with Poroshenko and formally acknowledge the results of the election.

"If, in fact, we can see some responsible behavior by the Russians over the next several months, then I think it is possible for us to try to rebuild some of the trust that’s been shattered during this past year," Obama said.

The pro-European Poroshenko was elected late last month. The White House hopes he can help calm tensions in Ukraine and negotiate greater autonomy for disputed regions.

On Tuesday, Obama said the pair discussed Poroshenko’s plans to restore peace in the contested regions, as well as ways to improve Ukraine’s fragile economy and diversify its energy portfolio to make it less dependent on Russia.

The president said it was clear Poroshenko “understands the aspirations and the hopes of the Ukrainian people.”

"I have been deeply impressed by his vision, partly because of his experience as a businessman," Obama added. "The United States is absolutely committed to standing behind the Ukrainian people not just in the coming days weeks but in the coming years."

This story was updated at 8:37 a.m.