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US Vice President assures Ukraine of support as Trump considers blocking military aid

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy (C-L) attends a meeting with US Vice President Mike Pence in Warsaw, Poland September 1, 2019. (Photo by Reuters)

US Vice President Mike Pence has reassured Ukraine that it still has the US administration’s support, even as President Donald Trump was reportedly considering a plan to cut millions of dollars in military aid to the country.

Speaking ahead of a meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in Warsaw on Sunday, Pence said Washington “will continue to stand with the people of Ukraine on your security, on territorial integrity, including Ukraine’s rightful claim in Crimea.”

Pence met with Zelenskiy a week after Trump floated the idea of Russia’s return to the Group of Seven nations (G7), from which it had been excluded after Crimea rejoined Russia in 2014.

The reunification came after a referendum, where more than 90 percent of participants voted in favor of the move, but the West branded the move as “annexation” of Ukrainian land by Russia.

The US — a key ally for Kiev — branded the move as “annexation” of Ukrainian land by Russia and has imposed sanctions on the Moscow.

In siding with Ukraine, the European Union has also followed Washington's lead in leveling several rounds of sanctions against Moscow.

The vice president, however, did not address reports that Trump was considering cutting $250 million in military assistance to Kiev.

He claimed that the relation between Kiev and Washington has never been stronger.

Earlier this week, the American daily Politico reported that Trump has tasked his national security team with reviewing military aid to Ukraine to ensure American interests are being “prioritized.”

The funding, around $250 million that had been allocated for weapons, training, equipment and intelligence support for Ukraine, has now been frozen, reports show.

This has prompted bipartisan criticism from members of Congress, who believe US military support is essential to counter what they allege to be Russia's military involvement in Ukraine.

“We have serious concerns about a freeze on these important appropriated funds, and we are urgently inquiring with the administration about why they are holding up these resources,” said House Appropriations Committee spokesperson Evan Hollander.

"Enough is enough. President Trump should stop worrying about disappointing Vladimir Putin and stand up for US national security priorities," said Democratic Senator Bob Menendez. 

Trump’s senior National Security Adviser John Bolton, who also met with the Ukrainian president last week in Kiev, reiterated support for Ukraine’s bid for the return of Crimea to Ukraine.

Ukraine’s Secretary of National Security Oleksandr Danylyuk reacted to the report on Thursday, saying that this was only an interpretation by the American newspaper and not a direct quote from the US president.

Danylyuk said he had discussed this issue during his recent meeting with White House National Security Adviser, John Bolton.

"The United States is currently analyzing the effectiveness of its military financial assistance in all areas... To what extent does the military support of Ukraine meet the US interests? The United States is directly interested,” he said.

“Therefore, I am sure that not only will this support (continue), but will even increase," Danylyuk added.

Back in June, the Pentagon announced plans to provide $250 million to Ukraine for additional training and equipment to boost the capacity of the Ukrainian army.

This has brought the US total security assistance to the European nation to $1.5 billion since 2014, according to the Pentagon.

This is while Russia has consistently warned against sending weapons to Ukraine over concerns of escalation of the conflict in the east, which has so far claimed the lives of some 13,000 people since 2014.

The armed confrontation began when a wave of protests in Ukraine overthrew a democratically-elected pro-Russia government and replaced it with a pro-West administration. 

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