Thursday, February 22, 2018
News Roundup

U.S. promises more aid for Ukraine, announces military exercises in Eastern Europe

KIEV, Ukraine — Vice President Joe Biden pledged additional U.S. aid Tuesday to help the government here, as the Pentagon announced that it would respond to Russia's involvement in Ukraine by sending about 600 U.S. troops to conduct exercises and training in Poland and the three Baltic states.

The announcements indicated robust U.S. support for the new Ukrainian government, even as Biden warned the political class here that it must confront "the cancer of corruption that is endemic in your system."

Meeting with Ukrainian lawmakers, Biden expressed sympathy for the challenges they confront, squeezed between the expectations of protesters in the capital and by pro-Russia activists in eastern Ukraine, where armed groups have occupied public buildings and are demanding a referendum to consider seceding into autonomous states.

"You face very daunting problems, and some might say, humiliating threats," Biden said. "But the opportunity to generate a united Ukraine, getting it right, is within your grasp. And we want to be your partner and friend in the project."

Biden said the U.S. aid would help Ukraine defy Russian economic pressure and stage a presidential election May 25, a vote he called perhaps "the most important in Ukraine's history."

Despite a U.S.-brokered agreement last week between Ukraine and Russia to de-escalate tensions, little has been done to corral the pro-Russia groups in the eastern region.

Biden demanded Tuesday that Russia push the groups under its sway to vacate the government buildings.

He concluded his visit by announcing that the United States would provide an additional $50 million in assistance to Ukraine, including $11.4 million to help conduct the election, as well as expertise to assist Ukraine in reducing its reliance on Russian energy supplies.

In Washington, Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary, told reporters that the troop deployment would begin today, when 150 paratroopers based in Vicenza, Italy, arrive in Poland. Three other paratrooper companies from the 173rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team will arrive in Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia no later than Monday, Kirby added.

He said that the exercises were expected to last about a month.

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