The United States has handed over the first batch of its heavily armored vehicles to Ukraine, two days after lawmakers passed a resolution urging the White House to provide Kiev with lethal arms.
The US Army delivered ten Humvees to Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko at Kiev’s airport on Wednesday. The vehicles were the first of 30 promised by Washington.
Washington also plans to send 200 regular Humvees as well as radios, counter-mortar radars, and other non-lethal equipment worth $75 million.
In a bipartisan 348-48 vote on Monday, the US House of Representatives passed a resolution to step up pressure on President Barack Obama to provide Ukraine with lethal arms.
The measure urged Obama to provide the country with “lethal defensive weapon systems” that would improve Kiev’s ability to “defend their sovereign territory from the unprovoked and continuing aggression of the Russian Federation.”
Western governments accuse Russia of destabilizing Ukraine by supporting pro-Russian forces in the eastern regions. Moscow, however, denies the allegation.
“Without action from this administration, Russia’s aggression will continue to be left unchecked,” House Speaker John Boehner said.
Ukraine’s mainly Russian-speaking regions of Donetsk and Lugansk in the east have witnessed deadly clashes between the pro-Russian forces and the Ukrainian army since Kiev launched military operations to silence pro-Moscow protests in mid-April 2014.
Violence intensified later in May after the two flashpoint regions held local referendums in which their residents voted overwhelmingly in favor of independence from Ukraine and joining the Russian Federation.