The Pentagon said today that Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is weighing potential military assistance options for Ukraine.
Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby said Hagel spoke again with Ukrainian Minister of Defense Ihor Tenyukh.
“In the 35-minute conversation, Secretary Hagel repeated his praise for the restraint demonstrated by Ukrainian forces in Crimea. He also commended Minister Tenyukh’s leadership,” Kirby said.
“For his part, Minister Tenyukh updated Secretary Hagel on the situation in Crimea and throughout the country,” he continued. “Secretary Hagel re-affirmed the United States’ support for Ukraine, stressed that we are actively reviewing Ukraine’s request for military assistance materials, and agreed to stay in close contact with Minister Tenyukh moving forward.”
“Both leaders agreed on the need to find a diplomatic, peaceful resolution to this crisis.” Russian forces have been forcefully seizing Ukrainian military bases in Crimea.
Hagel spoke Thursday with Russian Minister of Defense Sergey Shoygu. “Secretary Hagel was clear and he was firm: Because Russian forces are in control of Crimea, they bear responsibility for what is happening there. He also pressed Minister Shoygu to explain Russian intentions with respect to forces they have aligned near Ukraine’s eastern and southern borders. And he reiterated his call that Russia immediately worked to de-escalate the tension and to restore Ukrainian territorial integrity,” Kirby told reporters of the hourlong call.
“…But Secretary Hagel appreciated Minister Shoygu’s time and the minister’s assurance that the troops he has arrayed along the border are there to conduct exercises only, that they had no intention of crossing the border into Ukraine, and that they would take no aggressive action.”
The Ukrainian government has submitted a list of what it needs in terms of military assistance, both lethal and nonlethal materials.
“We’re working our way through that request right now here at the department and in the interagency,” Kirby said. “I think it’s safe to say that right now, the focus of that review is on the non-lethal side of things, but it is very much still an active issue under consideration.”