By RFE RL
(RFE/RL) — Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko says the first delivery of lethal defensive weaponry from the United States is expected in weeks.
In a press conference in Kyiv on February 28, Poroshenko talked about the recent U.S. decision to supply Ukraine with such sophisticated weaponry.
“The first delivery of the weapons will take place in several weeks. We are talking about a number of different deliveries, starting with the antisniper devices, because many Ukrainian soldiers were killed by Russian snipers,” Poroshenko said, adding that other military equipment expected from Washington included tools for electronic warfare, air defense, and other kinds of weapons.
In December, Washington prompted protests from Russia when it decided to provide lethal defensive weaponry, which some U.S. officials said would include Javelin antitank missiles, to support Ukraine in its nearly four-year conflict with Russia-backed separatists.
“I cannot give all the details as the data is classified,” Poroshenko said.
Poroshenko also called the ongoing conflict in the country’s east “not frozen, but a battlefield.”
He said “the key challenge for Ukraine in 2018 remains the ongoing war of the Russian Federation against Ukraine.”
Poroshenko added that “the risk posed by Russia’s wide-scale war against Ukraine is decreasing thanks to the strengthening of Ukraine’s armed forces and continuing sanctions against Russia,” but added that the measures “do not fully bring Russia’s threat to zero.”
“In the past 24 hours alone, some 300 mortar shells had been launched by Russia-backed separatists in the east,” Poroshenko said.
According to Poroshenko, a recently adopted law on reintegration of the territories controlled by the separatists in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions supports a diplomatic solution to the conflict and the deployment of UN peacekeepers to the region.
“The involvement of UN peacekeepers will make the aggressor country (Russia) withdraw its troops and its military equipment from the area and secure the implementation of the Minsk peace agreements,” Poroshenko said. “I will do my best to bring peacekeepers [to the region] as soon as possible because it is the only way now to stop the killings of Ukrainians there.”
Since April 2014, more than 10,300 people have been killed in fighting between Kyiv’s forces and the separatists who control parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.
Some journalists challenged Poroshenko, asking him about last month’s reports about his “secret and extremely expensive” weeklong Christmas vacation in the Maldives.
Poroshenko said he traveled to the Maldives with his own passport under his own name and paid all the expenses from his own pocket.
Answering questions about his decreasing popularity in the country, Poroshenko said, “I do not follow ratings as I do not have time for that because I am busy doing my job as a president.”