Four NATO allies deny Ukraine statement on providing arms
KIEV (Reuters) - A senior aide to Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko said on Sunday that Kiev had agreed at the NATO summit in Wales on the provision of weapons and military advisers from five NATO member states, but four of the five swiftly denied any such deal had been reached.
NATO officials have previously said the alliance will not send arms to non-member Ukraine, but have also said individual allies may do so if they wish. A NATO official contacted by Reuters on Sunday on the Lytsenko comment reiterated this policy.
"At the NATO summit agreements were reached on the provision of military advisers and supplies of modern armaments from the United States, France, Italy, Poland and Norway," Poroshenko aide Yuri Lytsenko said on his Facebook page.
Lytsenko gave no further details. He may have made his comment for domestic political reasons to highlight the degree of NATO commitment to Ukraine and to its pro-Western president.
Poroshenko, whose armed forces are battling pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine, attended the two-day summit in Wales that ended on Friday.
A senior U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, denied that the United States had made such a pledge. The official told Reuters, "No U.S. offer of lethal assistance has been made to Ukraine."
Asked about Lytsenko's comments, defense ministry officials in Italy, Poland and Norway also denied plans to provide arms.
In France, an aide at the Elysee palace declined to comment.
"This news is incorrect. Italy, along with other EU and NATO countries, is preparing a package of non-lethal military aid such as bullet-proof vests and helmets for Ukraine," an Italian defense ministry official told Reuters.
Norwegian Defense Ministry spokesman Lars Gjemble, speaking to the NTB news agency, said, "We're participating with staff officers in two military exercises in Ukraine, but it's not correct that we're delivering weapons to Ukraine."
A Polish defense ministry spokesman, Lieutenant Colonel Jacek Sonta, said by email, "There (was) no agreement concerning supply of modern arms from Poland to Ukraine at the NATO summit."
NATO officials have said the alliance will not send weapons to Ukraine, which is not a member state, but they have also said individual allies may choose to do so.
Russia is fiercely opposed to closer ties between Ukraine and the NATO alliance.
(Reporting by Gareth Jones in Kiev, Steve Scherer in Rome, Balasz Koranyi in Oslo and Marcin Goclowski in Warsaw, Will Dunham in Washington; Writing by Gareth Jones; Editing by Hugh Lawson)
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