As sporadic fighting between government forces and Russia-backed rebels continued in Ukraine, and a peaceful demonstration more than 120 miles from the frontline was bombed, calls for the United States to supply defensive weapons to the government in Kiev continued. At the same time, a senior Republican senator said Sunday he's “ashamed” of his country for its failure to do so sooner.
Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee, appeared on CBS’s Face the Nation after news broke that a bomb killed two people in the Ukrainian town of Kharkiv during a march commemorating the ouster of former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych. News organizations over the weekend reported continued shelling in eastern Ukraine, a week after a cease-fire was supposed to have begun.
The Ukrainian government has requested aid from the United States in the form of defensive weaponry, which they say would help them counter the advanced Russian weapons that Moscow has given the rebels. The Russian government has denied supplying either arms or soldiers to aid the Ukrainian rebels – a claim derided as utterly unbelievable by most news organizations.
Still, the Obama administration has been reluctant to commit to sending weapons to Ukraine. One reason is that doing so would cement the perception that the conflict in Ukraine is a proxy war between the U.S. and Russia – which the Kremlin increasingly appears to be cultivating.
For his part, McCain doesn’t seem interested in how U.S. involvement in the conflict would be spun by Russia.
“The Ukrainians aren’t asking for American boots on he ground,” he said. “That’s not the question here. They
’re asking for weapons to defend themselves. They are being slaughtered, and their…military is being shattered. This is a shameful chapter. I’m ashamed of my country, I’m ashamed of my president, and I’m ashamed of myself that I have not done more to help these people. It is really, really heartbreaking.”
McCain, a strong advocate for arming Ukraine, continued, “We should give them weapons to defend themselves. There are Russian tanks in Ukraine…that they have no weapons to fight against. Some of the best Russian Special Forces are there, and they will continue this aggression for as long as they can get away with it.”
While not directly invoking the idea of “shame,” Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk used an interview with Fox News on Sunday to press the U.S. into aiding his country, casting the decision as a moral one.
“We have to defend ourselves,” Yatsenyuk said. “Russia is constantly supplying tanks, surface-to-air missiles and the rest of the stuff. And again everyone knows this, and we still use outdated Soviet-style equipment.”
He continued, “The United States of America is the leader of the free world. We are fighting for our independence and we are fighting for our freedoms and liberties, and this has to be our joint work, to fight together.”
Oddly, over the weekend, ousted President Yanukovych gave a statement to the press expressing his determination to return to Ukraine to “ease” the conditions experienced by its people.
How he would expect to do so is unclear, given that the vast majority of the county supports the government that backed his overthrow - while the rebels in the east regard him as having abandoned the country in its time of need.
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