US: Expert on plans to increase Ukraine military support
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Speaking at a conference in Kiev, Ukraine on Tuesday, Lloyd Austin was defiant that the US would stand by its Ukrainian allies in the face of growing Russian aggression as the war in the Donbass region enters its eighth year.
He said: “US support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity is unwavering.
“So we again call on Russia to end its occupation of Crimea.
“To stop perpetuating the war in eastern Ukraine!
“To end its destabilising activities in the Black Sea and along Ukraine’s borders.”
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Mr Austin went on to demand that Russia bring an end to its cyberattack campaigns which earlier this year infiltrated a host of major US government networks.
He added how these “persistent cyber attacks” and other “malign activities” against the United States, its allies, and partners will not be tolerated.
The Defence Secretary went on to slam Russia for starting the war before branding how Russia’s President Putin is an “obstacle to a peaceful resolution” to the conflict.
While in a defiant conclusion, he said how “Ukraine “has a right to decide its own future foreign policy” adding “we expect that they will be able to do that without any outside interference”.
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Ukrainian troops have been fighting Russian-backed forces in the eastern Donbass region in the conflict which began in 2014.
The war has killed an estimated 3,350 civilians, 5,600 Russian soldiers, and around 4,400 Ukrainian soldiers.
Moscow denies having troops in eastern Ukraine or sending troops and military hardware to prop up two proxy separatist governments in Donbass.
Vladimir Putin instead blames Kiev for the lack of progress towards peace.
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Fighting erupted soon after Russia seized the Crimea peninsula from Ukraine in an almost bloodless seizure of power which saw troops flood streets without Russian insignia.
Russia also denies carrying out cyberattacks against its enemies despite evidence to the contrary from US intelligence services.
The most recent uptick in tensions follows news on Monday that Moscow is ending the activities of its diplomatic mission to NATO after the Western military alliance expelled eight Russians it accused of spying.
Following the decision, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov slammed: “If NATO members have any urgent matters, they can contact our ambassador in Belgium on these questions.”
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