Vice President Joe Biden told Ukraine's president Wednesday the U.S. will send more aid to the country, which U.S. officials said will include small drones and armored Humvees.
The White House said in a statement that Biden delivered the news in a call to Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, while expressing concern that Russian-backed separatists are violating cease-fire agreements in eastern Ukraine and keeping out international monitors.
U.S. officials, speaking on a condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to discuss the aid on the record, said the aid includes some small Raven drones systems, which can be launched by hand. The U.S. will also send 30 heavily armored Humvees and 200 other regular Humvees, as well as radios, counter-mortar radars and other equipment. All of the aid is nonlethal, and the drones are not armed.
The drones and other equipment, not including the Humvees, are worth about $75 million. It's not clear how many drones would be sent or what the Humvees cost.
U.S. lawmakers from both the Democratic and Republican parties have repeatedly urged Obama to provide Ukraine with lethal weapons to defend themselves against the Russian-backed rebels.
Victoria Nuland, assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Tuesday that administration officials are still discussing lethal assistance and are watching whether the so-called Minsk agreements, which led to last month's cease-fire, are implemented. Nuland said that in the past few days, there have been new transfers of Russian tanks, armored vehicles, heavy artillery and rocket equipment over the border to the separatists in eastern Ukraine.
Russian President Vladimir Putin denies arming rebels in the war in eastern Ukraine, which has killed more than 6,000 people and forced over a million to flee their homes. The fighting began in April, a month after Russia annexed the mostly Russian-speaking Crimean Peninsula.