WASHINGTON (AP) — A bipartisan group of senators Friday called on Secretary of State John Kerry to tighten economic sanctions on Russia and provide defensive weapons to Ukraine after Russian-backed rebels breached this month's cease- fire agreement and seized the Ukrainian town of Debaltseve.
The senators, including No. 2 Senate Democrat Dick Durbin of Illinois and Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain, R-Ariz., told Kerry in a letter that "it is time to provide defensive weapons to Ukraine and to consider imposing additional sanctions and penalties that will increase the cost of Putin's actions."
The seizure of Debaltseve this week came despite a cease-fire agreement reached between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko sealed a week ago. The senators see the cease-fire as failing, though France and Germany, which brokered the accord, hope to salvage it.
The war in eastern Ukraine has killed more than 5,600 people and forced over a million to flee their homes since fighting began in April, a month after Russia annexed the mostly Russian-speaking Crimean Peninsula. Putin denies arming the rebels.
"Putin's duplicity regarding these agreements has been matched only by his delusional denials of Russian involvement in eastern Ukraine," the senators wrote.
"We can only conclude that in the absence of greater Western support for Ukrainian forces, a Russian-imposed military outcome will continue to unfold in Ukraine," they said.
The Senate letter was signed by six Republicans and four Democrats.