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 it will provide heavy armaments to Ukraine for the first time, a step up from the support equipment and training it has 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 actively supporting them.
“The United States has crossed a line by announcing its intention to supply lethal weapons to Ukraine,” 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.”
(c) 2017, The Washington Post · Carol Morello, David Filipov