John McCain: U.S. Should Provide Long-Term Military Assistance to Help Ukraine Resist Russia

(TheBlaze/AP) — Sen. John McCain called Saturday for the United States to provide long-term military assistance to Ukraine in the face of Russian hostilities, noting that such action is “the right and decent thing to do,” CNN reported.

U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., speaks during a news conference in Kiev, Ukraine, Saturday, March 15, 2014. (Image source: AP/David Azia)

McCain was among a bipartisan delegation of U.S. senators who traveled to Kiev ahead of Sunday’s secession referendum in Crimea — which the White House and U.S. allies in Europe have denounced as unconstitutional and illegal given that Russian troops are occupying the southern Ukraine peninsula and threatening annexation, CNN added.

“Ukraine is going to need a long-term military assistance program from the United States — equipment both lethal and nonlethal,” said McCain. “They ask for some modest means that can help them resist. I believe we should provide it.”

McCain and seven other senators — John Barasso (R-Wyo.), Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), John Hoeven (R-N.D.), Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), Christopher Murphy (D-Conn.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) — said Congress stood with the people of Ukraine and called for strict sanctions against Russia, said CNN.

Russian forces backed by helicopter gunships and armored vehicles Saturday took control of a village near the border with Crimea, Ukrainian officials said.

The action in Strilkove appeared to be the first move outside Crimea, where Russian forces have been in effective control since late last month. There were no reports of gunfire or injuries. The incident raises tensions already at a high level before Sunday’s referendum.

In a statement, the Foreign Ministry denounced the foray outside Crimea, and said Ukraine “reserves the right to use all necessary measures to stop the military invasion by Russia.”

A spokesman for the Ukrainian border guard service, Oleg Slobodyan, told The Associated Press the Russians, about 120 in all, took control of a natural gas distribution station in the village. The Foreign Ministry said the force consisted of about 80 and didn’t mention the station, but said the village was seized.

Ukraine’s acting president, Oleksandr Turchynov, warned Saturday that “there’s a real danger of the threat of invasion of the territory of Ukraine.”

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Friday, after meeting with US Secretary of State John Kerry, said Russia has no plans to send troops into eastern Ukraine.

McCain added during his remarks at the news conference that “the United States and our European allies will be contemplating actions that we never have had before in our relations with Russia.”