Ukrainian defense minister says he's asked Pentagon for military assistance

Ukraine's defense minister says he has asked the Pentagon for assistance to help defend Ukraine as it deals with increasing tensions over Russia’s military buildup near its borders.

Speaking to reporters at the Ukrainian Embassy in Washington on Friday, Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said Ukraine needs to “cover our sky and our sea,” Bloomberg News reported.

“To stop [Russian] aggression, we need to show the cost will be too high,” the defense minister added, according to Radio Free Europe.

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Reznikov’s comments come as U.S. officials have warned that Russia could try to carry out a potential invasion in Ukraine as it did in 2014 when it annexed the Crimean Peninsula.

The Ukrainian defense minister met with Defense Secretary Lloyd AustinLloyd AustinGOP holds on Biden nominees set back gains for women in top positions Drones are a strategic liability for US Buttigieg has high name recognition, favorability rating in Biden Cabinet: survey MORE at the Pentagon on Tuesday, during which Austin “reaffirmed unwavering U.S. support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” according to a readout of the meeting.

“The leaders discussed a range of security issues, including Russia’s destabilizing actions in the region, and agreed to work closely together to advance the shared priorities outlined in the U.S.-Ukraine Strategic Defense Framework signed on August 31, 2021,” the readout stated, referring to the commitment under which the U.S. provided an additional $60 million in security aid to Ukraine.

Prior to the framework, the U.S. had committed $2.5 billion to support Ukraine’s military forces since 2014, including more than $400 million in 2021 alone. 

The Pentagon didn’t comment when asked about Reznikov’s remarks, but referred to Thursday's meeting.

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Russia, for its part, has denied that it is trying to invade Ukraine. In a speech on Thursday, Russian President Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinBiden administration resists tougher Russia sanctions in Congress More than 50 dead, one rescued in Russian mine explosion NATO to discuss ways to deter Russia: Lithuanian official MORE warned that the West hasn’t been heeding warnings not to cross Moscow’s “red lines.” 

"We're constantly voicing our concerns about this, talking about red lines, but we understand our partners — how shall I put it mildly — have a very superficial attitude to all our warnings and talk of red lines,” he said in part, according to Reuters.

Asked about Putin’s comments, White House press secretary Jen PsakiJen PsakiRussian military buildup puts Washington on edge White House looks to rein in gas prices ahead of busy travel season Biden: Guilty verdicts in Arbery case 'not enough' MORE told reporters on Friday that the Biden administration continues to “have serious concerns about Russian military activities and harsh rhetoric towards Ukraine and call on Moscow to de-escalate tensions.”

Psaki added that the U.S. has raised concerns directly with Russia about its military activity near the Ukrainian border.