June 11, 2020 / 2:36 PM / 23 days ago

UPDATE 1-U.S. to give Ukraine $250 mln in aid to deter Russia

(Adds background on Trump impeachment, military aid to Ukraine, details on Pentagon aid)

WASHINGTON, June 11 (Reuters) - The United States plans to give Ukraine $250 million through the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative for training and equipment to strengthen the country’s ability defend itself against Russia, the Pentagon said on Thursday.

The funds for fiscal 2020 are being sent to deter “Russian aggression,” the Pentagon said in a statement.

U.S. President Donald Trump was impeached by the House of Representatives in December on charges of obstruction of Congress and of pressuring Ukraine to investigate the son of political rival, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden. Trump was acquitted by the Senate in February.

At the center of the impeachment inquiry was military aid to Ukraine, which Trump’s administration held up to coerce Kiev into interfering in the 2020 election by smearing Biden.

The $250 million can be used to build Ukraine’s lethal defense capabilities, air surveillance systems, special operations forces’ counter-artillery radars and tactical equipment as well as medical treatment, and cyber capabilities, among other needs, the Pentagon said.

The Pentagon said the aid “reaffirms the long-standing defense relationship between the United States and Ukraine.”

The United States says it has provided $1.5 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since 2014, when Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula.

That assistance has expanded since Trump took office, including to weaponry such as Javelin anti-tank missiles made by Lockheed Martin Co, that could be used against Russian-backed forces in conflict-hit east Ukraine. (Reporting by Mike Stone; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

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