U.S. Vice President Joe Biden meets Ukraine’s leaders Friday in an effort to underscore Washington’s support for Kyiv, which is battling a pro-Russian insurgency.
A senior White House official said Biden intends to use the meetings to tell President Petro Poroshenko and Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk that “we have your back.”
Biden’s visit comes amid disagreement in Washington over whether to supply lethal aid to the Ukrainian military, which at times has appeared to be outgunned by the rebels.
Earlier this week, President Barack Obama’s nominee to fill the number two post at the State Department said the White House should consider providing Ukraine with lethal, defensive military equipment.
Tony Blinken told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that arming Ukraine’s military could force Russia to rethink its alleged role in supporting the rebellion.
Both houses of Congress have voiced support for such aid, but the Obama administration has so far stopped short of providing lethal equipment.
On Thursday, the senior White House official said the U.S. still does not see a military solution to the crisis, which began in April and has killed more than 4,300 people.
For its part, the Kremlin has said U.S. lethal aid would further destabilize the situation in Ukraine. Top ranking Russian security official Nikolai Patrushev warned Thursday that “the conflict will grow” if the U.S. aid materializes.
In other developments, the United Nations released a new report Thursday saying nearly 1,000 people have been killed in the weeks since Kyiv and rebel leaders signed a cease-fire agreement in September. It also cites numerous incidents of killings, detentions and torture.
The document says on average 13 people each day have been killed since the cease-fire deal was signed September 5.