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Ukraine requests US weapons ahead of possible Trump-Zelenskiy meeting

Patriot missile launchers. (US Army 10th Army Air and Missile Defense Command/Released)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

Ukraine has formally requested to purchase U.S. military equipment for the first time as the nation continues to battle Russia-backed separatist formations in parts of two eastern provinces.

The U.S. Embassy in Kyiv published a statement by former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine William Taylor announcing the nation’s request on July 7 on its Twitter page. Taylor is leading America’s diplomatic mission in Kyiv during parliamentary elections scheduled for July 21.

“We are beginning the review process for that request. The United States stands firmly with Ukraine in support of its sovereignty, territorial integrity, and defense sector reforms,” Taylor said in the statement.

The United States has given Ukraine military support, including Javelin antitank missiles, worth about $1.5 billion since 2014, when Russia seized Crimea and fomented a separatist conflict in the Donbas region.

Russia has given the fighters more than 450 tanks and 700 pieces of heavy equipment, former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine John Herbst told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last month.

In an interview with RFE/RL on July 7, Herbst said Kyiv would likely order more Javelin missiles as the tanks continue to be a key problem for Ukrainian forces.

However he said the country doesn’t have billions to spend on U.S. weapons.

The purchase request comes as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy plans to make his first official visit to the United States.

The trip, which could take place in the coming weeks, would be the first meeting between President Donald Trump and Zelenskiy, who won in a landslide in April.

Though Trump has shown more interest in enhancing relations with Russia, he has also made boosting U.S. exports a key component of his economic policy.

A military sale to Ukraine could cap the first meeting between the two leaders.

However, Herbst said the timing of the military purchase announcement should not be overestimated.

“My understanding is that this has been in the works for a while,” he said.