President Barack Obama is expected to announce Thursday a $46 million strategic aid package for Ukraine amid its battle with pro-Russian separatists, according to the Associated Press. The package will reportedly be announced during a meeting with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, who is in Washington to plead for help and draw further attention to the conflict that has pitted his nation against Russia.
Poroshenko requested support from the U.S. during a speech to Congress Thursday morning. Ukrainian soldiers fighting in the conflict, he said, "need more military equipment, both lethal and nonlethal." "Please understand me correctly," he said. "Blankets, night vision goggles are also important, but one cannot win the war with blankets. Even more, we cannot keep the peace with a blanket."
The aid package is likely to include radar to help detect incoming mortar fire, vehicles, engineering equipment and body armor. The aid expands on the $60 million or so in non-lethal aid the U.S. has already provided Ukraine in recent months.
Poroshenko also went after Russia for its alleged involvement in the fighting in eastern Ukraine. “Besides Ukraine, Russian speakers reside in Moldova, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Baltic states, Poland, even Germany,” Poroshenko said. “This is a very big majority. Bulgaria, Moldavia, Georgia, Ukraine, who is next?”
He later evoked a motto of the American Revolution, repeatedly exclaiming “Live Free or Die!” as he drew parallels between the American fight for independence and the Ukraine crisis.
“Live free or die was one of the mottos of the American Revolutionary War," he said. "Live free must be the answer with which Ukraine comes out of this war. Live free must be the message Ukraine and America send to the world while standing together in this time of enormous challenge.”
Poroshenko also requested the U.S. give Ukraine, which is not a NATO member, “a special security and defense status,” but it is unclear how the U.S. will respond. A White House official told the Associated Press that the U.S. could work more closely with the Ukrainian military in the future. The U.S. will also offer $7 million in humanitarian aid to help those affected by the fighting in eastern Ukraine.
Read a full transcript and video of Poroshenko’s congressional address via C-SPAN.