US announces $250m in military aid to Ukraine

Pentagon renews commitments to Ukraine in struggle against Moscow-backed rebels.

    About 13,000 people have been killed since the conflict erupted in 2014 [File: Gleb Garanich/Reuters]
    About 13,000 people have been killed since the conflict erupted in 2014 [File: Gleb Garanich/Reuters]

    The United States has announced a $250m military aid package for war-torn Ukraine to strengthen the country's naval and land capabilities.

    The Pentagon said on Tuesday that the US would also provide Ukraine with naval training, as well as sniper rifles, rocket-propelled grenade launchers, radars and night vision equipment.

    "The United States remains committed to helping Ukraine ... to strengthen democratic civilian control of the military, promote command and control reforms, enhance transparency and accountability in acquisition and budgeting, and advance defence industry reforms," Lieutenant Colonel Carla M Gleason, a Pentagon spokesman, said in a statement.

    "These reforms will bolster Ukraine's ability to defend its territorial integrity in support of a secure, prosperous, democratic and free Ukraine," Gleason added. 

    According to the statement, the amount is part of a series of Pentagon payments totalling $1.5bn to the country since 2014, when Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula and Moscow-backed separatists seized parts of eastern Ukraine's Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

    About 13,000 people have been killed since the conflict erupted.

    Ukraine and its Western allies accuse Russia of funnelling troops and arms to the pro-Moscow rebels across the border. Moscow denies the allegations.

    Russia sanctions

    Separately on Tuesday, Ukraine's newly elected leader, President Volodymyr Zelensky called for firmness in dealing with Russia, according to an interview published by Germany's Bild newspaper.

    Zelensky, who held talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel in the German capital Berlin on Tuesday, said sanctions imposed on Russia by the European Union in 2014 should be expanded.

    "My attitude is simple and clear. Sanctions are the only means to liberate the occupied region and restore our territorial integrity and sovereignty, and return them to our people. If this does not work, the mechanism must be expanded," he said.

    The sanctions are up for renewal for the ninth time at the Brussels summit scheduled for Thursday and Friday.

    Zelensky also expressed opposition to continuing with the construction of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline bringing Russian gas directly to Germany from Russia, saying it threatened the energy security of Europe and Ukraine.

    UN court orders Russia to free detained Ukraine sailors (02:20)

    SOURCE: News agencies