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US rejects Putin’s proposal on Ukraine, clears $200 million in military aid

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
US President Donald Trump (L) and Russian President Vladimir Putin hold a joint press conference in Helsinki, Finland, July 16, 2018. (Photo by AFP)

The Pentagon has released $200 million in military aid to Ukraine after the White House rejected an offer by Russian President Vladimir Putin to work with the United States in resolving the conflict.  

The money was allocated months ago as part of the US defense budget but its release was contingent on the Ukrainian government passing “a series of defense reforms” demanded by Washington.

On Friday, the Ukrainian Embassy in Washington announced that the funds have been released.

Earlier on the day, the White House said it would not consider a proposal reportedly made by Putin during his summit with President Donald Trump for a referendum to be held in regions of eastern Ukraine.

US National Security Council spokesman Garrett Marquis said that organizing such a referendum would have "no legitimacy."

Russian Ambassador to the US Anatoly Antonov said Trump and Putin had discussed "concrete proposals" on the Ukrainian conflict during their meeting in Helsinki on July 16.

The Trump administration decided that the passage of a new national security law by Kiev, which was signed by President Petro Poroshenko on July 5, met the requirements for the Pentagon to release the new funds.

After the law was enacted, State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said in a statement that the measure would “further deepen Ukraine's Western integration.”

"The United States stands ready to continue supporting Ukraine's defense and security sector reforms to bolster Ukraine's ability to defend its territorial integrity," Nauert added.

The move will likely anger Russia that says US military assistance would only escalate tensions in eastern Ukraine.

A Pentagon official told CNN that the additional funds would provide military equipment to boost Ukraine’s training programs and operational capabilities, including “counter-artillery and counter-mortar radars, high mobility multipurpose wheeled vehicles, night vision devices, electronic warfare detection, secure communications and medical equipment.”

The new funding brings the total US military assistance to Ukraine to more than $1 billion since 2014 as it seeks to bolster the country’s military capabilities to encounter pro-Russia forces in the east.

The strategic Black Sea peninsula of Crimea declared independence from Ukraine on March 17, 2014 and formally applied to become part of Russia following a referendum, in which 96.8 percent of participants voted in favor of the move.

After Crimea rejoined Russia, an armed conflict broke out in eastern Ukraine between the government and pro-Russia forces. Kiev accuses Moscow of involvement in the conflict, a charge it denies.

Washington has sided with the government in Kiev in refusing to recognize the referendum and accusing Moscow of “annexation” of the peninsula.

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