Ukraine has long sought to boost its defenses against Russian-backed separatists armed with tanks that have rolled through eastern Ukraine during violence that has killed more than 10,000 since 2014.
The president of Ukraine has applauded the anticipated $47 million deal, saying providing the country with lethal weapons shows the U.S.is serious about protecting its allies.
The U.S. Department of State has approved deliveries to Ukraine of the Javelin anti-tank missile system, according to the U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency. "The Javelin system will help Ukraine build its long-term defense capacity to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity in order to meet its national defense requirements", the DSCA added.
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Russian Federation invaded Ukraine in 2014, annexing Crimea, and is charged by Western leaders with providing significant military support to rebels in the eastern part of the country. Military officials tell the network news the sale is meant to bolster Ukraine's military forces in the fight against separatists. Russian Federation insisted that US involvement would instead encourage Ukraine to use force, but USA officials have been dismissive of the idea that the conflict would worsen. The Kremlin has repeatedly said supplying weapons to Ukraine would further destabilize the situation.
In late December, US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said the United States planned to provide Ukraine with military assistance so that the country can protect its territorial integrity, in a way that is purely defensive and will not violate the Minsk peace accords. The fighting has continued in the eastern part of Ukraine.
Meanwhile, Alexander Zakharchenko, the head of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic, confirmed last August that the supply of United States lethal weapons would nearly certainly result in an escalation of the conflict. The shoulder-fired weapon is armed with a so-called "fire and forget" guided missile system, designed for use by infantry units.