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Ukraine's Defense Minister Says He Made Request For New U.S. Military Assistance

Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov (file photo)
Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov (file photo)

Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov has said he requested military assistance during his first trip to the United States in his new capacity amid growing concern of possible Russian aggression.

Speaking to journalists at the Ukrainian Embassy in Washington on November 19, a day after he met with Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, Reznikov said that Ukraine had "powerful" ground forces but needed to enhance its air and naval capacities to deter Russian threats.

Reznikov declined to name the weapons he is requesting from the United States, saying only that in order "to stop [Russian] aggression, we need to show the cost will be too high."

His trip to Washington, organized at the last minute, comes amid reports Russia has kept as many as 90,000 troops stationed near its border with Ukraine following the conclusion of military exercises, raising fears of another possible invasion.

Russia seized Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014, capturing much of its naval fleet, and has been backing fighters in two of Ukraine's eastern provinces. The conflict, which continues to this day, has claimed at least 13,200 lives.

In the latest incident, Ukraine said on November 19 that one of its soldiers had been killed by Moscow-backed separatists in the east.

The United States has committed more than $2.5 billion in military aide to Ukraine since 2014, including anti-tank missiles. Total U.S. military assistance, including training, will be $400 million this year, the State Department has said.

Ukraine's military needs have shifted over the years in relation to Russia’s actions and now is primarily in air and sea capabilities, Reznikov said.

Delivering new U.S. weapons to Ukraine is likely to anger Russia, which has recently lashed out at Western assistance to the country.

Reznikov said he received a "very strong" commitment from Austin that the United States will be "shoulder to shoulder" with Ukraine.

During a joint press conference with Reznikov on November 18, Austin said the United States was "monitoring closely" Russia's military movements near the border with Ukraine and expressed "unwavering support" for the country.

U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staffs Mark Milley spoke earlier in the day with his Ukrainian counterpart, Valeriy Zalushniy, Reznikov said.

"We are going to ensure this communication on a regular basis," the Ukrainian defense minister said.

Reznikov, a 55-year-old former lawyer and deputy prime minister, was confirmed as defense minister on November 4, replacing Andriy Taran.

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    Todd Prince

    Todd Prince is a senior correspondent for RFE/RL based in Washington, D.C. He lived in Russia from 1999 to 2016, working as a reporter for Bloomberg News and an investment adviser for Merrill Lynch. He has traveled extensively around Russia, Ukraine, and Central Asia.

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