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Ukraine Buys More Anti-Tank Missiles From U.S.


Ukraine has announced that it is buying more Javelin anti-tank missiles from the United States. This military purchase comes at a time when Ukraine is trying to smooth over relations following the impeachment of President Trump. Here's NPR's Michele Kelemen.

MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: Back in that infamous July phone call, Ukraine's new president said he was almost ready to buy more Javelins from the U.S. President Trump responded saying, quote, "I would like you to do us a favor, though." Trump has since been impeached. He had been holding up U.S. aid to Ukraine, releasing it only after a whistleblower complaint came to the attention of Congress. Soon after, he was meeting Ukraine's president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, in New York touting his earlier assistance.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I gave you anti-tank busters that - frankly, President Obama was sending you pillows and sheets. And I gave you anti-tank busters. And a lot of people didn't want to do that, but I did it.

KELEMEN: Now Ukraine is buying Javelins with its own money. It sees these weapons as a deterrent to Russia. Ukraine's embassy says in a statement, quote, "we are proud that Ukraine is becoming a reliable partner of the United States, eligible to procure high-tech U.S. defense products." The Ukrainian ambassador in a tweet also writes that he is looking forward to a visit to Kyiv in early January by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. That would send an important signal, according to Steven Pifer, a former U.S. ambassador.

STEVEN PIFER: When I was in Kyiv about seven weeks ago, there was a degree of nervousness about the depth of the U.S.-Ukraine relationship. And what the Ukrainians will be looking for is basically a signal from Secretary Pompeo that the United States' support is there in full.

KELEMEN: But Pifer says it was not helpful to have Trump's private lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, in Kyiv recently meeting with a discredited former prosecutor and other unsavory characters.

PIFER: It's worrisome because the president seems still to listen to Mr. Giuliani and sometimes maybe paying more attention to Mr. Giuliani than he does to his own State Department, his embassy in Kyiv, his National Security Council staffers, intelligence community, and that's a problem.

KELEMEN: Pifer is also troubled by the planned departure of the current acting ambassador in Ukraine. Bill Taylor testified in the impeachment hearings. Now he's been asked to hand off to the deputy chief of mission on New Year's Day. Michele Kelemen, NPR News, the State Department. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Michele Kelemen has been with NPR for two decades, starting as NPR's Moscow bureau chief and now covering the State Department and Washington's diplomatic corps. Her reports can be heard on all NPR News programs, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered.