Sat Feb 21, 2015 10:48PM
US Secretary of State John Kerry says the US is considering whether to provide the Ukrainian army with lethal weapons to suppress a pro-Russia protest in the east of the country.
Kerry made the comments at a press conference after a meeting with his British counterpart, Philip Hammond, in London on Saturday.
Kerry said US President Barack Obama was considering whether to arm Ukrainian forces and to impose harsher sanctions against Moscow over alleged breaches of a recent ceasefire reached between the warring parties in the Belarusian capital Minsk.
“In the next few days I anticipate that President Obama will evaluate the choices that are in front of him and will make his decision as to what the next step will be,” he said.
“There are serious discussions taking place between us and our European allies as to what those next sanctions steps ought to be and when they ought to be implemented,” Kerry said. “I am confident some additional steps will be taken in response to the breaches of the ceasefire.”
He further accused the Kremlin of violating a peace deal, dubbed Minsk II, reached at a summit attended by the leaders of Ukraine, Russia, France, and Germany on February 11 and 12.
Kerry referred to an assault on the city of Debaltseve, saying, “We know to a certainty what Russia has been providing and no amount of propaganda is capable of hiding these actions. For anyone wanting to make gray areas out of black, let’s get very real, the Minsk agreement is not open to interpretation, it is not vague, it is not optional.”
The US secretary of state also threatened to take action against Russia calling the ceasefire a “failure”.
“If this failure continues, make no mistake, there will be further consequences, including consequences that will put added strains on Russia’s already troubled economy,” Kerry said, adding, “We are not going to sit back and allow this kind of cynical, craven behavior to continue at the expensive of the sovereignty of another nation.”
The new deal calls for an immediate ceasefire and the withdrawal of heavy armaments as the initial steps toward a political settlement of the Ukrainian conflict.
Russia has been hit with a series of sanctions by the United States and the European Union, which accuse Moscow of supporting pro-Russia forces in eastern Ukraine, saying the Russian intervention poses a security threat to Ukraine and all other neighboring states, an allegation categorically denied by the Kremlin.
Nearly 5,700 people have been killed and close to a million have been displaced since the armed conflict began in eastern Ukraine in April 2014.