KIEV: US Secretary of State John Kerry was due in Kiev on Thursday for talks focusing on the possibility of arming Ukrainian forces, a day after four civilians were killed when a hospital in east Ukraine was shelled.
His visit comes as international pressure grows for an immediate halt to surging violence that has seen hundreds of civilians killed in recent weeks as pro-Russian rebels push into government-held territory.
Speaking before Kerry’s trip, President Petro Poroshenko said the events of recent days should encourage the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to “provide more support to Ukraine, including the provision of modern weapons to protect itself and defend itself against the aggressor.”
“We need a strong army with new weapons, this will help us to defend the civilian population against attacks by terrorists,” he told German newspaper Die Welt.
US President Barack Obama’s nominee for defense secretary said he was likely to support providing weapons—something that the administration has so far ruled out.
Ashton Carter, expected to be confirmed soon as Pentagon chief, told a US Senate committee that “we need to support the Ukrainians in defending themselves”.
However, Vice President Joe Biden seemed less hawkish, telling German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung: “We have said since the beginning that there is no military solution to this crisis.”
“We have no interest in a military escalation and insist on the opposite,” he said, while adding that Washington could provide “help in the security field.”
Carter’s comments will be welcomed by Kiev’s pro-Western leaders, hopeful that their long-standing demands for the US to supply weapons could be met.
Washington has so far provided only non-lethal assistance to Ukraine, including flak jackets, medical supplies, radios and night-vision goggles, fearful of becoming embroiled in a proxy war with Russia.