'Lethal' US military aid begins arriving in Ukraine

The shipment demonstrates US commitment to helping Ukraine bolster its defences in the face of growing Russian aggression. PHOTO: REUTERS

KIEV (BLOOMBERG) - US military aid to help Ukraine defend against a possible invasion by Russia has begun to arrive, according to the American Embassy in Kiev.

The embassy, in a Twitter post, said the material "includes close to 200,000 pounds of lethal aid, including ammunition for the front-line defenders of Ukraine".

"The shipment - and US$2.7 billion (S$3.6 billion) since 2014 - demonstrates US commitment to helping Ukraine bolster its defences in the face of growing Russian aggression," the embassy said in another tweet.

Photos with the tweets showed large green containers being unloaded at an airport.

The embassy did not elaborate or indicate what else was included but said it was a first shipment of "assistance recently directed by" President Joe Biden.

The announcement was made at the end of an anxious week in which an assault on Ukraine by Russia seemed more likely.

A meeting in Geneva led by Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov did not yield an agreement, though both sides agreed to continue talks.

"If Russia wants to begin to convince the world that it has no aggressive intent towards Ukraine, a very good place to start would be de-escalating," Mr Blinken said on Friday at the end of a three-day European trip.

Russia has assembled a large armed force on its border with Ukraine and sent troops and armour to Belarus, to Ukraine's north, for joint military drills scheduled to begin on Feb 10.

Mr Putin has demanded security guarantees that would prevent Ukraine from ever joining the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and require the alliance to roll back its forces to positions they held in 1997, before Central and Eastern European nations joined Nato.

The US and its Nato allies have rejected those demands.

Mr Putin has said he has no plans to invade Ukraine.

Mr Biden plans to meet with his national security team over the weekend at the presidential retreat at Camp David, in Maryland.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on Friday that "we didn't expect any breakthroughs to happen today, but we are on a clearer path in terms of understanding each other's concerns".

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