Putin, Merkel Agree to Try to Return Russian Observers to East Ukraine

"We're standing by waiting for the State Department" to sign off on additional weaponry for Ukraine, Shanahan said, but noted that increases in foreign military sales to allies are a major policy focus for Mattis.

"The United States has made a decision to provide Ukraine enhanced defensive capabilities as part of our effort to help Ukraine build its long-term defense capacity, to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity, and to deter further aggression", a State Department statement said.

An ABC news report before the announcement said the U.S. planned to supply Ukraine with anti-tank missiles, including possibly the advanced Javelin system, quoting four State Department officials.

Any sale would need congressional approval.

Washington is ready to offer Ukraine "enhanced defensive capabilities", the US State Department has confirmed, after several US officials said the Trump administration has approved plans to supply Kiev with lethal weapons. More than 10,000 people have been killed, with casualties reported on a near-daily basis.

Kiev accuses Moscow of sending troops and heavy weapons to the region, which Russian Federation denies.

Merkel spoke by telephone with Poroshenko on Friday, a day after she spoke to Russian President Vladimir Putin, the spokesman said.

On Monday, the Russian Foreign Ministry said it was recalling officers serving at the Joint Centre for Control and Coordination (JCCC) in Ukraine, accusing the Ukrainian side of obstructing their work and limiting access to the front line. The state department pointed out that approving the "commercial export" of lethal arms was "nothing new", because Washington has repeatedly allowed U.S. arms manufacturers to sell weapons to Kiev "under the previous two administrations".

"And to fully utilise security assistance funds provided by the Congress to enable Ukraine to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity", he said.

(Copyright © 2015. All Rights Reserved.)

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