September 18, 2014 / 3:01 PM / 3 years ago

Ukraine president asks U.S. Congress for more aid

Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko (L) speaks as U.S. President Barack Obama listens, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, September 18, 2014.Larry Downing

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko appealed for more U.S. assistance, including arms, in a warmly received appearance before the U.S. Congress on Thursday, but the latest offer of American help did not include the weaponry he is seeking.

"Please understand me correctly. Blankets, night-vision goggles are also important. But one cannot win the war with blankets." He added: "Even more, we cannot keep the peace with a blanket."

Drawing cheers from members who want to arm the former Soviet state, Poroshenko declared his forces "need more military equipment, both lethal and non-lethal -- urgently need."

Given the honour of a speech to the joint houses of Congress reflecting U.S. support for his country's fight against Russian-backed separatists, he said Washington should slap more sanctions on Moscow and give Ukraine a special security status.

As he was speaking, President Barack Obama's administration pledged $53 million (32.3 million pounds) in aid, most of it security-related but not weapons.

It included counter-mortar radar detection equipment used to locate incoming artillery fire, as well as patrol and transport vehicles, surveillance equipment, explosive detection gear, armour, rations and de-mining equipment.

NATO, wary of being drawn into a proxy conflict with Russia in the east European state, has decided against sending arms to Ukraine, which has frequently been outgunned by Russian-supported separatists in the eastern border areas.

"HEROIC STRUGGLE"

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks while Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko (L) listens as they talk to the media during a meeting in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, September 18, 2014.Larry Downing

Poroshenko put the struggle in Ukraine in historical terms, calling it "the most heroic story of the last decade."

"The outcome of today's war will determine whether we will be forced to accept the reality of a dark, torn and bitter Europe as part of a new world order," he said.

"I strongly encourage the United States to give Ukraine a special security and defence status which reflects the highest level of interaction with non-NATO allies," Poroshenko said.

He insisted that Ukraine would never accept Russia's annexation of Crimea, which he called "one of the most cynical acts of treachery in modern history."

Poroshenko, who took over as president in June and hopes to consolidate his authority in a parliamentary election on Oct. 26, visited the White House for talks with Obama after his address to Congress.

The pro-western leader called a cease-fire on Sept. 5 after heavy battlefield losses that Kiev ascribed to Russian military intervention on behalf of the rebels.

But it is a shaky truce. Ukraine's prime minister on Wednesday told government forces to remain on full battle alert as fighting in the rebel-held city of Donetsk killed at least two civilians.

Moscow denies its military units have been involved in the Ukraine fighting.

Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Bill Trott and David Gregorio

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