The U.S. State Department has approved the sale of anti-tank missiles to Ukraine, the first lethal weaponry the U.S. has sold to Ukraine since Russia’s invasion of Crimea in 2014.
The State Department formally approved the sale Thursday of 210 Javelin anti-tank missiles to Ukraine, in a move long expected to upset Russia.
The Defense Security Cooperation Agency, part of the U.S. Department of Defense, said Ukraine has asked to buy the missiles and 37 launchers, at a cost of around $47 million.
Kyiv has been asking Washington for lethal military aid since the Russian invasion, but the Obama administration offered only training and support equipment rather than contribute to escalated violence.
Late last year, President Donald Trump indicated he would be agreeable to moving forward with the sale of Javelin missiles to Kyiv.
Congress must sign off on the sale before the deal can be made complete, which means the dollar figure and progress of the sale could change. But so far, lawmakers have indicated widespread support for the move. The 2018 defense policy budget allows for increased funding to support Ukraine.
Iowa Senator Joni Ernst, chair of the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities, released a statement Thursday saying “Providing lethal aid to Ukraine shows that the United States is serious about protecting the interests of our nation and our allies.”
The move came just hours after Russian President Vladimir Putin gave his annual address to Russia, unveiling a new arsenal of nuclear-capable weapons.
U.S. officials say they are “fully prepared” to deal with any Russian threat.
While the long-anticipated deal was not formally announced until Thursday, on Wednesday, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said in a press conference that he was expecting delivery of lethal defensive weaponry from the United States within weeks.