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    Officials: US agrees to provide lethal weapons to Ukraine

    The Trump administration has approved a plan to provide lethal weapons to Ukraine, U.S. officials said Friday, in a long-awaited move that deepens America’s involvement in the military conflict and may further strain relations with Russia.
    The new arms include American-made Javelin anti-tank missiles that 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. Previously, the U.S. has provided Ukraine with support equipment and training, and has let private companies sell some small arms like rifles.
    The officials describing the plan weren’t authorized to discuss it publicly and demanded anonymity.
    The move is likely to become another sore point between Washington and Moscow, as President Donald Trump contends with ongoing questions about whether he’s too hesitant to confront the Kremlin. Ukraine accuses Russia of sending the tanks, and the U.S. says Moscow is arming, training and fighting alongside the separatists.
    Trump had been considering the plan for some time after the State Department and the Pentagon signed off earlier this year. President Barack Obama also considered sending lethal weapons to Ukraine, but left office without doing so.
    The State Department, responsible for overseeing foreign military sales, would not confirm that anti-tank missiles or other lethal weapons would be sent. But in a statement late Friday, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said the U.S. had decided to provide “enhanced defensive capabilities” to help Ukraine build its military long-term, defend its sovereignty and “deter further aggression.”
    “U.S. assistance is entirely defensive in nature, and as we have always said, Ukraine is a sovereign country and has a right to defend itself,” Nauert said.
    The White House’s National Security Council declined to comment. Russia’s embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment late Friday.
    Although the portable Javelin anti-tank missiles can kill, proponents for granting them to Ukraine have long argued they are considered “defensive” because the Ukrainians would use them to defend their territory and deter the Russians, not to attack a foreign country or seize new territory.
    apnews.com

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