U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry flew to Kiev on Thursday to conduct talks with Ukraine, and pledged to provide an additional humanitarian aid worth $16.4 million to help the country’s civilians in violence-hit eastern Ukraine, NBC reported. Kerry will meet Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko, Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk and Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin, before attending a security conference in Munich, Germany, on Friday.
"The funding will be used to support the Ukrainian government's response to the crisis caused by Russia's aggressive actions," the State Department said in a statement, according to NBC.
Kerry will highlight Washington’s support for Ukraine during the Kiev visit, according to the U.S. Department of State. U.S. officials have indicated that Washington is inclining toward providing lethal weapons to Ukraine, which has repeatedly requested for aid, Reuters reported.
"The nature of those arms, I can't say right now," Ashton Carter, Washington’s pick for defense secretary, told a Senate committee, according to Reuters, adding: "But I incline in the direction of providing them with arms, including, to get to what I'm sure your question is, lethal arms."
Poroshenko had said in an interview to a German newspaper, published on Thursday, that the country needs modern equipment to fight against Russia-aided rebels. He added that Ukraine also needed to boost its military capabilities to curb violence, Interfax reported.
“I have been always said this and will say this again: Ukraine wants peace. But peace must be protected, for that purpose we need a strong army with new modern weaponry. It will help us to protect the civilian population against intensive terrorist attacks. Militants from 'DNR/LNR' receive their modern armaments from the Russian Federation," Poroshenko had reportedly said, adding: "We are still in need of military, technical and professional aid to improve the military efficiency of the Ukrainian army, in light of Russia aggression."
NATO claims that Russia has equipped the rebels with weapons, funds and troops, but Russia has denied accusations of its involvement in the fighting in what Kremlin calls the “New Russia,” Reuters reported. While some western advocates say arming Ukraine may put pressure on Russia, opponents say the move could escalate conflict, worrying that it could lead NATO and Russia to actively aid warring sides similar to proxy conflicts during the Cold War.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said, according to Agence France-Presse, that the move to increase defense in the eastern part of Europe has to be taken because of Russia’s "aggressive actions."
Meanwhile, French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel will also meet Poroshenko on Thursday to help the country resolve the ongoing conflict with the rebels. Hollande reportedly said he was not in favor of Ukraine joining NATO but he was working with Merkel toward a deal to help resolve the Ukrainian conflict.
"For several days Angela Merkel and I have worked on a text ... a text that can be acceptable to all," Hollande told a news conference, according to Reuters.