Russia Says U.S. is Fueling New Bloodshed in Ukraine After Trump Decides to Provide Lethal Support to Embattled Country

Ukrainian soldiers march in Kiev on Aug. 24, 2017, during a military parade marking independence day. (Efrem Lukatsky/AP)
Ukrainian soldiers march in Kiev on Aug. 24, 2017, during a military parade marking independence day. (Efrem Lukatsky/AP)

Russian officials said Saturday that the U.S. decision to supply Ukraine with lethal weapons to combat Russian-backed separatists will cause new bloodshed, as long-standing tensions between Washington and Moscow escalated over the four-year-old conflict.

Moscow’s admonition came shortly after the State Department announced Friday evening that the United States will provide heavy armaments to Ukraine for the first time, a step up from the support equipment and training offered so far. A statement by spokeswoman Heather Nauert said the weapons were defensive in nature, “as part of our effort to help Ukraine build its long-term defense capacity, to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity, and to deter further aggression.”

On Wednesday, Washington said it had approved an export license allowing the sale of light weapons and small arms to Ukraine from commercial U.S. manufacturers.

The U.S. decision to provide lethal weapons brought a predictably sharp rebuke from Moscow, which has tacitly backed the separatists in eastern Ukraine while denying that it actively supports them.

“The United States has crossed a line by announcing its intention to supply lethal weapons to Ukraine,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said Saturday. “U.S. weapons are capable of leading to new casualties in our neighboring country, and we cannot remain indifferent to that.”

Moscow has long maintained that U.S. authorities organized and oversaw the Maidan protests in Kiev that led then-President Viktor Yanukovych to flee to Russia in early 2014. Russian state television programs constantly portray Ukraine as a failed state with neo-fascist leaders bent on oppressing ethnic Russians in the country’s eastern Donbas region.

“The United States is clearly prompting them to a new bloodshed now,” Ryabkov said in comments posted on the Russian Foreign Ministry website. “Kyiv’s revenge-seekers have already been shelling Donbas every day and are unwilling to hold peace talks, while dreaming about doing away with the disobedient population. And the U.S. has decided to give them the weapons for it.”

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SOURCE: Carol Morello and David Filipov 
The Washington Post