U.S. to provide Ukraine with 'enhanced defensive capabilities'

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For years, the USA has debated whether to provide Ukraine with "lethal" defensive weapons to counter separatists backed by Russian Federation in eastern Ukraine.

A Russia-backed separatist insurgency erupted in 2014 and the bloodshed has continued despite a ceasefire that was meant to end the conflict.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had discussed the recent escalation in clashes in a phone call Friday with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, according to an official readout issued by the Ukrainian government. Tillerson, in turn, stressed that the United States would continue to support Ukraine.

The announcement comes after the State Department on December 21 said it had approved an export license for Ukraine to buy certain types of light weapons and small arms from USA manufacturers.

The US assistance is entirely defencive in nature, she added.

Washington is ready to offer Ukraine "enhanced defensive capabilities", the US State Department has confirmed, after several US officials said the Trump administration has approved plans to supply Kiev with lethal weapons.

On Wednesday the Trump administration had announced it was allowing the export of some small arms to Ukraine. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), who is the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, because it effectively lifts the Obama-era restrictions.

Anti-tank weapons have always been seen as a critical capability to allow the Ukrainian military to combat the armored vehicles in the possession of the separatists, equipment that U.S. officials say is supplied by Russian Federation.

Earlier this week, the Trump administration reportedly approved a $41.5 million package of Model M107A1 sniper systems to Kiev.

Ukraine and Russia are at loggerheads over a war in eastern Ukraine between pro-Russian separatists and Ukrainian government forces that has killed more than 10,000 people in three years.

The state department did not specify what kind of weapons Kiev will receive, neither confirming nor denying the reports, but emphasized that Washington "remains committed to the Minsk agreements as the way forward in eastern Ukraine".

Nauert said the United States continued to call on Russian Federation to withdraw its forces and weaponry from Ukraine.

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