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Ukraine to Receive More U.S. Military Assistance, Hagel Says

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel announced Thursday that the United States will send additional non-lethal military assistance to Ukraine.

The assistance, which Hagel described as "health and welfare items and other supplies," will include medical supplies, helmets, sleeping mats, water purification units, shelters, small power generators, and hand fuel pumps.

Hagel called his Ukrainian counterpart this morning to inform him of the U.S. commitment. Last month, the U.S. provided several hundred thousand meals-ready-to-eat (MREs) to the Ukrainian military.

Speaking at a joint news conference with his Polish counterpart, Hagel was also asked about Vladimir Putin's claim that building up missile defense sites in Europe is fueling an arms race. Secretary Hagel called that claim "ridiculous."

Image: US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and Defense Minister of Poland Tomasz Siemoniak
Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, left, and Defense Minister of Poland Tomasz Siemoniak hold a joint news conference following their bilateral meeting at the Pentagon, in Arlington, Virginia, on April 17. Hagel and Siemoniak discussed how the Ukraine crisis affects the region and a planned missile defense system in Poland. MICHAEL REYNOLDS / EPA

Hagel also said that Russia's recent actions in Ukraine have been "dangerously irresponsible" and "violate the integrity" of Ukraine.

Earlier Thursday, Putin denied the White House allegation that Russia is assisting separatists in eastern Ukraine, but he did not rule out sending troops into the region.

"I really hope that I do not have to exercise this right and that we are able to solve all today's pressing issues via political and diplomatic means," he said, according to a translation by Reuters.

—Jim Miklaszewski and Courtney Kube