US considers shipment of arms to Ukrainian Armed Forces
The US Government is reportedly exploring options to send lethal weapons and equipment to the Ukrainian Armed Forces, amid an escalation in fighting in the east of the country.
The move comes as Russia allegedly continues to support rebels through the provision of heavy weapons and soldiers, despite months of international economic sanctions and peace talks.
To date, the US has supplied non-lethal military equipment such as counter-mortar detection units, body armour, binoculars, small boats and other equipment to Ukraine.
However, Russia's aggression has prompted the country to reconsider its defensive policy and take another look at the prospect of arming the Kiev forces, The New York Times reported.
US National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan said: "Although our focus remains on pursuing a solution through diplomatic means, we are always evaluating other options that will help create space for a negotiated solution to the crisis."
According to reports, senior defence officials, including US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, Secretary of State John Kerry and the Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman general Martin Dempsey, have expressed support for the plan.
In addition, a group of US senators have reportedly urged the Obama administration to send $3bn of defensive arms and equipment to Ukraine, including anti-armour missiles, reconnaissance drones, armoured Humvees and radars, which can be used to determine the location of enemy rocket and artillery fire.
However, senior US administration officials said a final decision is yet to be taken.
Kerry is scheduled to visit Kiev for talks with the Ukrainian Government later this week.
Meanwhile, fighting between pro-Russia rebels and Ukrainian forces has intensified in locations across the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, killing several civilians and Kiev soldiers.
The rebels have pledged to increase their forces to 100,000 personnel, while the Ukraine Government has announced plans to increase its own armed forces to 200,000 later this year, BBC News reported.
According to a UN estimate, more than 5,000 people have been killed and some 1.2 million have been displaced since the Ukraine crisis started in April 2014.
Image: A Ukrainian man stands in a garage destroyed by mortar shelling in Oleksandrivka, Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine. Photo: © 2015 Human Rights Watch.