Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov has said he requested military assistance during his first trip to the United States in his new capacity amid growing concern of a possible Russian aggression.
Speaking to journalists at the Ukrainian Embassy in Washington on November 19, a day after he met with Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, Reznikov said that Ukraine needed to strengthen its air and naval capacities to deter Russian threats.
“To stop [Russian] aggression, we need to show the cost will be too high,” he said through an interpreter.
However, Reznikov declined to say what specific items he requested from the United States.
Ukraine said earlier this month that Russia had amassed as many as 90,000 troops near its border, sparking concerns in the West that the Kremlin could invade the country.
Russia seized Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014 and has been backing fighters in two of Ukraine’s eastern provinces. The conflict, which continues to this day, has claimed at least 13,200 lives.
In the latest incident, Ukraine said on November 19 that one of its soldiers had been killed by Moscow-backed separatists in the east.
The Russian aggression prompted the United States to begin offering Ukraine military assistance, including lethal anti-tank missiles, that totals about $250 million a year.
Reznikov said he received a “very strong” commitment from Austin that the United States will be “shoulder to shoulder” with Ukraine.
During a joint press conference with Reznikov on November 18, Austin said the United States was “monitoring closely” Russia’s military movements near the border with Ukraine and expressed “unwavering support” for the country.
Reznikov, a 55-year-old former lawyer and deputy prime minister, was confirmed as defense minister on November 4, replacing Andriy Taran.