Obama Meets with Ukraine's President-Elect to Offer Support

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On the second day of his European tour, President Barack Obama met with Ukraine's recently elected president Petro Poroshenko for the first time, and it went swimmingly. 

Obama said at the close of the 70-minute-long session that “I have been deeply impressed by his vision,” adding, "The United States is absolutely committed to standing behind the Ukrainian people, not just in the coming days and weeks but in the coming years." According to the New York Times, that commitment comes in the form of additional funds for the struggling nation: 

Mr. Obama used the meeting to announce that the United States would increase nonlethal aid to Ukraine with $5 million worth of night-vision goggles, body armor and communications equipment sought by its security forces. He praised President-elect Petro O. Poroshenko, saying that Mr. Poroshenko “understands the aspirations and hopes of the Ukrainian people” and represents a better future for his country.

Poroshenko, for his part, said he is prepared to unveil a peace plan after he formally becomes president this weekend, saying "Very quickly after the presidential inauguration we are ready to present our plan for the peaceful solution of the situation in the east." 

Obama, however, adds that Ukraine is worried about its gas dispute with Russia, saying, "they’re very concerned about making sure that energy is in place as winter comes up.” Recently, Ukraine agreed to pay  a portion of the $2.5 billion Russia's Gazprom say they are owed to resolve the outstanding gas debt by June 1. Officials were able to wrangle an extensions — and both sides say talks are going relatively well — but the issue remains unresolved in the long-term.

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Secretary of State John Kerry, who spent some time with Poroshenko as well, will meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Thursday to discuss Ukraine and Syria. 

Meanwhile, violent clashes continue in Ukraine. On Wednesday, the country's National Guard said it was taking a break from fighting in Luhansk, after a 10-hour battle with armed rebels. Six militants were reportedly killed and three Ukrainian soldiers injured in the clashes. 

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.