State Dept. OK's $47 million anti-tank missile sale to Ukraine: Pentagon

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Ukrainian Defence Minister Stepan Poltorak on Friday said the decision by the United States to approve the supply of anti-tank missiles opened the door for closer military cooperation in the face of Russian aggression.

Former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych has called for "direct peace talks" between Kyiv and Russia-backed separatists in Ukraine's east to end a conflict that has killed more than 10,300 people since April 2014.

Officials from the Defense Security Cooperation Agency, the Pentagon directorate overseeing worldwide arms deals with the USA, notified Congress Thursday on the proposed sale of the FGM-148 Javelin anti-tank missile. "The total estimated cost is not to exceed $47 million", the agency's press statement says.

Offering assistance to Ukraine, as well as pushing back against other Russian moves in eastern Europe, is in line with President Donald Trump's National Security Strategy, which was released in December.

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Russia's subsequent seizure of Crimea and its backing of the separatists in eastern Ukraine have triggered waves of USA and European Union sanctions targeting Russian officials, companies, and economic sectors.

"The need for the adoption of this appeal is stipulated by the urgent need to ensure an end to Russia's political repression against Ukrainian citizens as a result of Russia's armed aggression against Ukraine and the release of political prisoners - citizens of Ukraine, as well as strict observance of the norms of global humanitarian law in temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine, the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, the city of Sevastopol, as well as some areas of Donetsk and Luhansk regions", the explanatory note says. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, said in a statement.

"Providing lethal aid to Ukraine shows that the United States is serious about protecting the interests of our nation and our allies", Ernst said.

The prime contractor will be a joint venture of Raytheon Co and Lockheed Martin Corp, it added.