US sending helmets, other non-lethal military aid to Ukraine

The U.S. is sending helmets, sleeping bags and generators to support the Ukrainian military -- but stopped short of approving other items the interim government reportedly says it needs to stand up to the might of Moscow, saber-rattling on its doorstep.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced Thursday that the U.S. will send the additional non-lethal military aid. The additional aid was announced as fighting between Ukraine's military and pro-Russian factions intensified in the eastern part of the country.

Hagel, speaking at a press conference at the Pentagon with his Polish counterpart, said the approved aid would include medical supplies, helmets, sleeping mats, water purification units, hand-fuel pumps and small power generators.

"The United States continues to stand with Ukraine. And earlier this morning, I called Ukraine's acting defense minister to tell him that President Obama has approved additional non-lethal military assistance for health and welfare items and other supplies," Hagel said.

But whether that will mute calls for the Obama administration to do more remains to be seen.

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Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, speaking on a Kentucky radio show on Thursday, said the U.S. should be providing lethal aid.

"Here is what I would do: I would be sending arms to the Ukrainian army. I would encourage the European Union to expand and take in Ukraine...I would provide serious assistance to the Ukrainians so that they could defend themselves," he said.

The Hagel announcement follows a report earlier this week that the administration was withholding non-lethal military aid sought by the Ukrainian government, including body armor and night-vision goggles. The aid announced Thursday is likely to stop short of all the items on Ukraine's wishlist.

And the administration still is not actively considering supplying Ukraine with lethal assistance, a step officials say could be viewed as an escalatory act by the U.S. in the midst of an already tense situation.

President Obama, in an interview with CBS News, claimed Vladimir Putin is not interested in a military confrontation.

But he warned there would be "consequences" for Russia's aggression.

U.S. officials were talking in Geneva on Thursday with their counterparts in Russia, Ukraine and the European Union about the crisis. With low expectations for a breakthrough in those meetings, officials already have prepared targets for additional sanctions that include wealthy individuals close to Putin and the entities they run.

Hagel also spoke Thursday about an incident on Saturday where a Russian fighter jet made several close passes by a U.S. Navy destroyer in the Black Sea.

Hagel said "our military did raise this issue with the Russian military." When pressed about what message was delivered, he said, "We didn't tell them we were happy."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.