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Pentagon announces $150 million in military aid to Ukraine

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)
Pentagon press secretary John Kirby (AP file photo)

The US Defense Department has announced a 150-million-dollar military aid package to Ukraine saying it will help the country bolster its borders against Russia, amid rising tensions between Kiev and Moscow.

The Pentagon said in a statement on Friday that the $150 million package for the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative "includes training, equipment, and advisory efforts to help Ukraine’s forces preserve the country’s territorial integrity, secure its borders, and improve interoperability with NATO.”

According to a Defense Department statement, the money will fund "counter-artillery radars, counter-unmanned aerial systems, secure communications gear, electronic warfare and military medical evacuation equipment, and training and equipment to improve the operational safety and capacity of Ukrainian Air Force bases.”

The fund was appropriated by Congress for fiscal 2021, but it was made conditional on Ukraine's progress on military reforms.

The Defense Department "was able to certify that Ukraine has made sufficient progress on defense reforms this year," Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said later on Friday.

The Pentagon "continues to encourage Ukraine to enact reforms that are in line with NATO principles and standards to advance its Euro-Atlantic aspirations," Kirby added.

The US Defense Department also allocated $125 million to Ukraine back in March.

The US has expanded its support of the Ukraine military since 2014, when Crimea rejoined Russia following a referendum where more than 90 percent of participants voted in favor of separating from Ukraine.

Washington, however, brands the reunification as annexation of Ukrainian land by Russia, which strongly rejects the allegation.

Under the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, Washington has committed more than $2.5 billion in security assistance to Ukraine.

Kiev and Moscow have traded blame in recent months for a spike in violence in the Russian-speaking Donbass, where Ukrainian troops and pro-Russia forces have been fighting since 2014.

The armed conflict began when a wave of protests in Ukraine overthrew a democratically-elected, pro-Russia government and replaced it with a pro-West administration. The majority of the people in eastern Ukraine, mostly ethnic Russians, refused to endorse the new administration.

The new government then began a crackdown on the ethnic Russians in the east, who in turn took up arms and turned the two regions of Donetsk and Lugansk — collectively known as the Donbass — into self-proclaimed republics.

Kiev and its Western allies accuse Moscow of having a hand in the crisis. Moscow denies the allegations.

Relations between Moscow and Kiev further deteriorated when the then-Ukrainian territory of Crimea voted to fall under Russian sovereignty in a referendum in 2014. More than 90 percent of the participants in the referendum voted in favor of unification.

Ukraine says Russia is amassing thousands of military personnel on its northern and eastern borders as well as on the Crimean Peninsula.

Washington, meanwhile, has begun sending warships and fighter jets to Ukraine near the Russian border to support Kiev in the face of what it calls Russian threats.

The US and its Western allies accuse Moscow of stirring tensions through the military build-up along its border with Ukraine. Russia, however, says it is taking defensive measures on its own territory in the face of increased NATO activity in Ukraine.

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