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U.S. To Send More Nonlethal Aid To Ukraine

  • RFE/RL

An elderly woman wipes away tears as she stands in front of a damaged house in Nikishyne, southeast of Debaltseve, in the conflict zone in eastern Ukraine on March 11.

An elderly woman wipes away tears as she stands in front of a damaged house in Nikishyne, southeast of Debaltseve, in the conflict zone in eastern Ukraine on March 11.

The United States has announced $75 million in nonlethal military aid to Kyiv and blacklisted more pro-Russian separatists and others, plus a Russian bank.

Radios, unmanned aerial vehicles, counter-mortar radars, night-vision devices, first-aid kits, ambulances, and other medical supplies are included in the aid package.

About 200 unarmed Humvees and 30 with armor will also be delivered.

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden told Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko about the new aid by telephone on March 11.

The announcement comes after NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said that Russia continued to arm and train rebel forces in eastern Ukraine despite a cease-fire agreement signed in Minsk on February 12.

The Kremlin denies aiding the rebels.

Separately on March 11, the International Monetary Fund's board signed off on a $17.5 billion, four-year aid program for Ukraine.

In his phone call with Poroshenko, Biden "noted with concern the ongoing violations of the cease-fire by Russia-backed separatists," the White House said.

Among those added by the U.S. Treasury to its sanctions list were the Kremlin-connected nationalist ideologue Aleksandr Dugin and former Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov.

One of the eight blacklisted separatists, Roman Lyagin, said he was not a fighter.

"It's the opposite. I do my best to stop the bloodshed," he told Reuters.

The sanctions ban any U.S. financial firm from doing business with listed individuals or institutions.

The sanctioned bank -- Moscow-registered Russian National Commercial Bank (RNCB) -- last year became the first Russian bank to open its doors in Crimea after the region's annexation.

RNCB said the sanctions "do not pose a threat to its current activities" and "at present, RNCB has no assets in the United States."

Also sanctioned was the Eurasian Youth Union, a Russian pro-separatist organization, which the U.S. Treasury said recruited fighters.

At NATO headquarters in Belgium, Stoltenberg expressed concern about the withdrawal of heavy weapons from the front line in eastern Ukraine.

Stoltenberg said if monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe were denied full access, they could not verify how many, or where, weapons had been moved.

In Kyiv, Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk welcomed the fresh IMF bailout.

The program "will enable us to stabilize the economy and the financial sector. It will be used to stabilize the currency. It will enable the Ukrainian economy to grow from 2016," Yatsenyuk said.

IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde said in Berlin that the program aims to provide "immediate economic stabilization" to Ukraine.

Lagarde hailed Ukraine's "strong commitment to reform."

"They have maintained fiscal discipline in very difficult conditions, allowed the exchange rate to adjust, and have increased retail end-user prices for gas," she said in a statement.

Lagarde said measures would be taken to help cushion the poorest from the impact of adjustments.

Ukraine's Finance Minister Natalie Jaresko said earlier on March 11 that the government expected to receive $5 billion from the IMF in the "coming days."

The Ukrainian economy is forecast to contract by 5.5 percent in 2015 amid the conflict in the east of the country.

Last week, Ukrainian lawmakers passed austerity measures, including pension cuts and tax increases, intended to help secure the fresh IMF bailout package.

With reporting by AFP, AP and Reuters