- - Tuesday, June 18, 2019

The Department of Defense said Tuesday it will provide the Ukrainian military with sniper rifles, rocket-propelled grenade launchers, counter-artillery radar and a host of other weapons as part of a massive $250 million security cooperation fund package.

The latest round of funds, Pentagon officials said, brings total U.S. military assistance to Ukraine to $1.5 billion since 2014. American military and financial aid to Ukraine has increased since Russia‘s annexation of Crimea in 2014 — a move that drew global condemnation and raised fears that Russian forces could encroach further into the country.

Since 2014, battles between Ukrainian troops and pro-Russian insurgents have claimed at least 13,000 lives, according to United Nations estimates. Another 30,000 have been wounded.

Ukrainian officials praised Tuesday’s military package and said it offers valuable tools for its forces.

“The mountainous package of custody-free assistance is intended ton provide our powers with both non-lethal and lethal visions of the defense industry,” the Ukrainian Embassy wrote in a Facebook post.

The Pentagon stressed that the U.S. remains committed to helping Ukraine strengthen democratic civilian control of the military, promote command and control reforms, and advance defense industry reforms.

“These reforms will bolster Ukraine’s ability to defend its territorial integrity in support of a secure, prosperous, democratic, and free Ukraine,” the Defense Department said.

In addition to rifles, grenade launchers and other ground weapons, Pentagon officials said the funds also will be used for “maritime situational awareness and operations as part of ongoing U.S. efforts to increase support for Ukraine’s Navy and Naval Infantry.”

Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy was with French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris on Monday. During a joint news conference, Mr. Zelenskiy said the key to peace in the region is to keep the diplomatic and sanctions pressure on Russia.

“Europe won’t feel in security as long as Russia pretends there is no rule of law,” he said.

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