WASHINGTON – Stuck in the crossfire of former Cold War rivals and amid a precarious ceasefire,Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko addressed Congress on Thursday in an effort to bolster U.S. support for the country.
The White House announced soon after the speech it would send $53 million in assistance to the country,with $46 million going to supporting Ukraine’s military and border guards.
“I urge you not to let Ukraine to stand alone in the face of this aggression,” Poroshenko said. “Democracies must support each other … otherwise they will be eliminated one by one.”
Ukraine’s military assistance will include body armor,helmets,heavy engineering equipment,patrol boats,advanced communications technologies,among other items,according to a release from the White House.
The list of items the U.S. will send to Ukraine did not include offensive weapons such as small arms,tanks or military aircraft.
Poroshenko met with President Barack Obama after his speech and thanked him for the aid package.
“It is very supporting for all Ukrainian people to be here and to receive so much support,” Poroshenko said.
In addition,Obama has asked Congress to approve an additional $45 million in aid to Ukraine.
Hours after Poroshenko’s speech,the Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved amendments to a bill called the Ukraine Freedom Support Act,which would impose additional sanctions on Russia’s financial,energy and defense sectors,while allowing Obama to send arms to Ukraine.
Though the amendments passed unanimously,some committee members raised concerns that it did not address Ukraine’s dependence on Russian natural gas.
“The message we are sending now is that we are willing to protect Russia’s energy monopoly,” Sen. John Barrasso,R-Wyo.,said during the committee meeting.
Barrasso also said he was willing to vote for the bill,even without the amendment.
Sen. John McCain,R-Ariz.,shared Barrasso’s hesitation,saying he would “very much like to have seen this whole energy issue addressed.”
Poroshenko received a warm welcome on the floor of the House. His speech earned well over 20 ovations,many of them standing.
The Ukrainian president was persistent in reassuring Congress its assistance would not end up abused,as corruption has long plagued the country.
“We are painfully aware of these sins,largely inherited from the era of Soviet decay,” he said. “I assure you that all aid received from the West will be utilized by non-corrupt institutions.”
The White House was also worried about where its aid would go. Part of America’s commitment to Ukraine will include helping the country investigate and recover stolen assets,draft anti-corruption legislation and “improve Ukraine’s business climate,” according to a White House release.
Ukraine is going into day 12 of a cease-fire,and though the country has passed reforms aiming to quell unrest in rebel held cities Dontetsk and Luhansk,Ukraine is adamant on reversing the annexation of Crimea.
“There is no way,at no price,and under no condition,that we will ever put up with Crimea’s annexation,” Poroshenko said.
Despite asking Congress for military support,Poroshenko is still holding out for peace. He said he is in daily contact with world leaders,including Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The Russian Embassy was not available for comment.
“We are ready to fight,but we are people of peace,” Poroshenko said. “We need you,America’s,help.”
Reach reporter Lucas Daprile at 202-408-1490. SHFWire stories are free to any news organization that gives the reporter a byline and credits the SHFWire. Like the Scripps Howard Foundation Wire interns on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.