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Ukraine

US official plays down prospect of arming Ukraine

After reports that the United States was planning to send weaponry to Ukraine's military, a White House advisor has played down the prospect - albeit without dismissing it entirely.

The US government played down media reports that it was considering sending weapons to Ukraine, with a top security adviser saying that more weapons were not likely to defuse the conflict.

In an interview with CNN, White House deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes said that sanctions were the best way of applying pressure on Russia. "We don't think the answer to the crisis in Ukraine is simply to inject more weapons and engage in tit-for-tat," he said.

US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki also emphasized that the US was not immediately looking for a military solution: "I don't think anybody wants to get into a proxy war with Russia," she said, adding that the objective was "to change the behavior of Russia. That's the reason we have put the sanctions in place."

Washington already supplies "non-lethal" military aid to Kyiv, including counter-mortar detection units, body armor, binoculars, small boats and other gear, but the US government has delayed a decision on providing arms - from rifles to anti-tank weapons - in the hope of a diplomatic solution between Ukraine and the pro-Russian rebels.

German government against provision of weapons

Rhodes described Merkel's Washington visit next week as 'very important'

Next week, President Barack Obama will receive German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the White House - with Ukraine sure to figure heavily in their talks. Rhodes described the meeting as "very important."

However, it could be difficult for Obama to get Germany's consent to supply arms to Kyiv. "There is no military solution to this conflict - I would tell my American friends thinking of sending weapons that there will be no military solution to this conflict. There would surely be more deaths," German foreign minister Steinmeier said on Monday in Nuremberg. "Genuine political solutions always come about at the negotiating table and are not delivered down the barrel of a gun," he added.

Meanwhile, tension in eastern Ukraine mounted after rebel leader Alexander Zakharchenko claimed that his administration would boost forces to 100,000 in both Luhansk and Donetsk regions.

Weekend talks between Kyiv and the pro-Russian separatists failed to bring about any solutions, fostering more violence instead. At least five soldiers and at least 15 civilians died in weekend clashes after rebels and Ukrainian soldiers fought for a strategic railway hub at Debaltseve near Donetsk.

More than 5,100 people have died in the insurgency which began in eastern Ukraine last year. The European Union and US accuse Moscow of supporting rebels in eastern Ukraine - a charge which Russia denies.

mg/msh (Reuters, dpa)

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