Mattis: US Sanctions Will Stay Until Russia Changes Behavior

Ukrainian independence

Fighting in Eastern Ukraine between government forces and Russia-backed rebels has killed more than 10,000 people since 2014, and Mattis' trip coincides with USA deliberations about further steps in the Ukranian crisis. "Despite the hardships you have endured, the people of Ukraine have shown a fierce determination to create economic opportunities, fight corruption, and strengthen their democratic institutions".

It has been known for weeks that the Trump administration has reopened consideration of long-rejected plans to give Ukraine lethal weapons. "Thank you for your clear position on the matter of Crimea-that it was and will be Ukrainian and that it should be returned to Ukraine", Poroshenko said Thursday. They have also called on Russian Federation to abide by the terms of the 2015 Minsk II ceasefire agreement, which requires the withdrawal of all heavy weaponry, prisoner exchanges and local elections in the separatist-occupied provinces of Donetsk and Luhansk, among other provisions.

Mattis declined to say explicitly what he would recommend to the White House on the weapons issue.

"I would also point out that on defensive lethal weapons - we are actively reviewing it", Mattis said at a news conference alongside Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko on Thursday.

Ukraine demonstrates its military might amid an armed confrontation between government troops and pro-independence insurgents in eastern regions, which has been underway since April 2014.

The Pentagon chief also said that Washington had recently made a decision to supply Ukraine with more than $175 million worth of equipment.

Carpenter said the weapons under discussion can not effectively be used to take territory, which means providing them would help stabilize the situation.

Mattis, whose visit coincided with Ukrainian Independence Day, also downplayed concerns that supplying Ukraine with lethal defensive weapons like anti-tank Javelin missiles and anti-aircraft systems would worsen tensions with Russian Federation.



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