KIEV (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama will decide soon whether to provide Kiev with lethal weapons to fight separatists in east Ukraine but Washington prefers a diplomatic solution, Secretary of State John Kerry said on Thursday.
Kerry was speaking in Kiev as the German and French leaders, Angela Merkel and Francois Hollande, arrived in the Ukrainian capital with a new proposal to end the conflict, which they planned to discuss in Moscow on Friday.
“The president is reviewing all of his options, among those options is the possibility of providing defensive systems to Ukraine,” Kerry told a joint news conference with Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk.
“The president will make his decision soon but not before he has had a chance to hear back from myself and others.”
Kerry said Hollande and Merkel would make a “counter-proposal” to a peace plan laid out by Russian President Vladimir Putin in mid-January, which was not approved by Kiev.
Washington backed the initiative and any solution to the crisis in east Ukraine could not be a “one-sided peace”, he said.
“That is very much the diplomacy that is needed right now and it is particularly helpful because we do have key decisions on the choices we need to make on the road ahead,” Kerry said, adding he would meet Merkel in Munich on Saturday.
Yatseniuk said Kiev had “strong evidence” that its troops were fighting regular Russian military forces, rather than local separatists, in the east. He said Kiev would not consider any peace plan that casts doubt on Ukraine’s territorial integrity.
“It seems to me the only country that strongly denies there are Russian boots on the ground is the Russian Federation and President Putin,” Yatseniuk said.
“If they need it, I can give them my glasses,” he said, removing his own glasses and waving them in the air. “We are not fighting with so-called rebels or guerrillas, we area fighting with the Russian regular army.”
Moscow says any Russians fighting in east Ukraine are volunteers and denies sending arms across the border.
Kerry said the United States also had evidence from surveillance and other means that Russia was involved in eastern Ukraine. “So enough is enough,” he said.
Reporting by Lesely Wroughton, Writing by Gabriela Baczynska, Editing by Timothy Heritage