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Mattis to Visit Ukraine Amid Reports of Potential Defense Deals

U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis will conduct his first official visit to Ukraine on Thursday amid reports that Washington has developed a plan to supply Kiev with lethal defensive weapons.

Pentagon spokesman Col. Rob Manning said in a briefing on Friday that the defense secretary will meet with President Petro Poroshenko and Minister of Defense Stepan Poltorak.

“During these engagements, the secretary will reassure our Ukrainian partners that the U.S. remains firmly committed to the goal of restoring Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, as well as strengthening the strategic defense partnership between our two countries,” he noted.

In July, The Wall Street Journal reported that the Pentagon and the State Department have introduced a plan to supply Ukraine with anti-tank missiles and other lethal defensive weapons. The proposal is reportedly pending the White House approval.

Kurt Volker, the U.S. Special Representative for Ukraine Negotiations, said last month that the Trump administration was considering weapons supplies to Ukraine to assist the country in its fight against separatists backed by Russia.

Moscow has been denying its role in the conflict in eastern Ukraine. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov warned on August 7 that arms supplies would be destabilizing.

“Practically, this would mean significant destabilization of the situation in southeastern Ukraine,” he told Sputnik Radio.

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