A bipartisan group of House leaders are urging President Barack Obama to send “lethal aid” to Ukraine to help protect the country from a Russian assault.
“In the wake of a cease-fire agreement that appears only to have consolidated Russian and separatist gains since the first Minsk agreement, we urge you to quickly approve additional efforts to support Ukraine’s efforts to defend its sovereign territory, including through the transfer of lethal, defensive weapons systems to the Ukrainian military," the lawmakers write in a letter sent to the president.
House Speaker John Boehner – joined by seven additional House Republicans and three House Democrats – sent the letter after a group of members met with Ukrainian lawmakers last week and discussed the need for additional help from the United States due to the “grotesque violation of international law” by Russia.
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Just this week, the UN released a report stating more than 6,000 people are estimated to have been killed in eastern Ukraine since the fighting escalated between Ukrainian government troops and pro-Russian separatists back in April 2014.
Secretary of State John Kerry told Congress last week that Russian officials had lied to his face about the country’s involvement in Ukraine.
Obama said last month that the White House was still considering sending lethal aid to Ukraine, something that other major Western allies oppose.
“If, in fact, diplomacy fails, what I’ve asked my team to do is to look at all options,” Obama said. “What other means can we put in place to change Mr. Putin’s calculus? And the possibility of lethal defensive weapons is one of those options that’s being examined.”
The letter from US lawmakers acknowledged the differing opinions of some American allies but urged Obama to "lead" on the issue.
“We understand your desire to prioritize unity of effort with Europe, and we believe our European and NATO allies should make clear that Russian aggression in the heart of Europe is unacceptable with deeds as well as words," lawmakers wrote. “ But we urge you to lead Europe in challenging this assault on international order, lest our foreign policy be held hostage by the lowest common denominator of European consensus.”
- NBC's Carrie Dann contributed