US must help Ukraine in 'most important' conflict: lawmaker

31st March 2015, Comments 0 comments

A top US lawmaker in Kiev on Tuesday urged President Barack Obama to provide arms to Ukraine, calling its conflict with pro-Russian separatists "the most significant threat to peace...since the end of WWII."

William "Mac" Thornberry, Chairman of the House Committee on Armed Services, met with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and said he hoped to convince Obama to heed a recent Congress vote overwhelmingly calling for the supply of defensive weapons.

"The president (Obama) has not yet decided whether he supports providing additional defensive lethal assistance to Ukraine, but there is a great deal of support in Congress," said Thornberry, a Republican from Texas.

"I'm hopeful that the president will agree with us soon," he added, insisting that aid need not come with conditions from Washington.

Following their meeting, Poroshenko said he was "willing to create a modern Ukrainian army that would be able to defend the country from the aggressor.

"Defensive weapons are an instrument of peace, not war," he added.

The Congressman said Ukraine must be the main priority when asked if Obama was concerned about disrupting anti-terrorism partnerships with Russia.

"There are many serious situations going on in the world, none of them are more important than what is happening in Ukraine today," he told reporters.

"This is, in many ways, the most significant threat to peace and stability since the end of WWII."

The year-long conflict has claimed more than 6,000 lives, and the West and Ukraine accuse Moscow of providing rebels in the east with troops and equipment, claims that Russian President Vladimir Putin has always denied.

The US lawmaker repeated the accusation on Tuesday, saying Russia "had already crossed the red line when they invaded Ukraine" and that Ukraine therefore "ought to have the ability to defend themselves".

The combatants signed a ceasefire in February that considerably dampened fighting in recent weeks, but both sides accuse each other of violating it as daily skirmishes continue along the front line.

Thornberry said the violations "tells us something about whether one can accomodate Russian or not".

As well as military assistance, the Texas Congressman said talks on hardening sanctions against Moscow were ongoing and that Washington could act on its own if Europe failed to join it in agreeing tougher measures.


© 2015 AFP

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