US leans toward arming Ukraine as rebels press attacks and Biden, Hagel, Kerry head to Europe

The Obama administration is tilting toward sending arms to Ukraine to help it fight Russian-backed rebels as three Cabinet-level officials head to Europe for consultations with Ukrainian officials and NATO allies.

As President Barack Obama's pick to run the Pentagon said Wednesday he would support lethal weapons transfers, Ukraine's president said he was confident the U.S. would do so. Meanwhile, outgoing Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Secretary of State John Kerry were flying to Europe. Vice President Joe Biden is to follow them on Thursday.

The moves are the latest in a series of signals the White House may reverse its opposition to arming Ukraine despite concerns that might escalate the conflict, turn it into a proxy war with Russia and set Washington at odds with its European partners.