February 17, 2015 / 6:48 PM / 5 years ago

U.S. says 'proxy war' with Russia not in Ukraine's interest

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States said on Tuesday it was not in the interests of Ukraine or the world to get into a proxy war with Russia over eastern Ukraine, a comment suggesting Washington is hesitant to arm Ukrainian forces.

“Our belief here in the administration, and I would be surprised if others disagree, is that getting into a proxy war with Russia is not anything that’s in the interest of Ukraine or in the interest of the international community,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters. “And certainly, as we weigh options, we weigh that as one of the factors.”

Pro-Russian rebels and Ukrainian government forces fought street-to-street in a strategic town in eastern Ukraine and refused to withdraw their heavy guns, all but scuppering hopes a European-brokered ceasefire deal would end months of conflict.

Two days after a truce went into effect, the agreement reached last week in Minsk, the capital of Belarus, was unravelling rapidly.

The Moscow-backed rebels say the ceasefire does not apply to the main battle front at the town of Debaltseve, astride a railway hub, where they have a Ukrainian military garrison surrounded. They have continued an all-out assault.

Speaking on a conference call, Psaki said the United States was still weighing all the options it had under consideration in the last two weeks. These include providing lethal assistance to Ukrainian forces in their fight against the rebels as well as tightening economic sanctions against Russia.

“We certainly believe that a diplomatic approach and a political approach is the right approach here, but the same options that were on the table a week ago or two weeks ago remain on the table,” she said. “And so we’ll continue to have internal discussions ... about the appropriate” assistance.

Reporting by Arshad Mohammed; Editing by Bill Trott and Mohammad Zargham

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