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As the crisis back home continues to threaten the future of his country, Ukraine's president came to Washington today with a plea for help.
Chief foreign affairs correspondent Margaret Warner reports.
Mr. Speaker. the president of Ukraine.
Petro Poroshenko won a standing ovation as he addressed the House and Senate this morning. It was his first visit to Washington since being elected president of the former Soviet republic. He made clear he's counting on more U.S. and western support to regain control of Eastern Ukraine.
PETRO POROSHENKO, Ukrainian President:
The United States made a commitment that it would stand behind Ukraine's territorial integrity, and we hope that it will live up to that promise.
The Ukrainian president said his country's soldiers need more and heavier weapons to defeat Russian-backed separatists and drive Russian troops from Ukrainian soil.
I urge the world to recognize and endorse their fight. They need more political support throughout the world. They need more military equipment, both lethal and nonlethal.
Urgently need. Please understand me correctly. Blankets, night-vision goggles are also important, but one cannot win the war with blankets.
As Poroshenko finished, the White House announced an additional aid package, worth $53 million, that doesn't include any major weaponry. Instead, it provides more body armor, helmets, night-vision goggles and radar, plus humanitarian assistance. That left Poroshenko to make his case directly to President Obama in the Oval Office.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA:
In addition to the concrete expressions of support through security assistance and economic assistance, we are going to continue to help to mobilize the international community towards a diplomatic solution.
I was impressed today by the level of support, the bipartisan support which was demonstrated in the Congress. And I want to thank you to the president for his leadership in the world for protecting Ukraine's sovereignty, territorial integrity, and independence.
To a great extent, the Poroshenko visit to Washington was aimed also at sending a message to Moscow. To that end, he called for more sweeping sanctions on Russia for its incursion. And he said Ukraine wants special security status, the highest level of ties to NATO for a nonmember state.
But just as urgent for Poroshenko's government is the need to shore up a struggling economy. On Tuesday, Ukrainian lawmakers cheered approval of a landmark deal for closer economic and political links with the European Union, which Russian president Vladimir Putin has adamantly opposed. Behind closed doors, they also passed laws giving amnesty to rebels and temporary self-rule for the eastern areas of Luhansk and Donetsk.
Those measures have faced criticism in Kiev as tacitly accepting Russian aggression. But they're in accordance with a cease-fire agreement signed on September 5 after months of heavy fighting. Russia is party to the deal, even though it continues to deny its involvement or the presence of Russian troops inside Ukraine.
Meanwhile, a rebel commander in Donetsk said this week the separatist regions do not want to be a part of Ukraine, nor join Russia either, at least for now.
ALEXANDER KHODAKOVSKY, Donetsk People’s Republic (through translator):
We found ourselves between a rock and a hard place. We cannot stay with Ukraine for ideological reasons. We cannot be with Russia for various economic and political reasons. So there is the only way left: Let this territory be unrecognized. We will try to organize life here step by step.
The cease-fire itself seemed today to be holding today, for the most part, despite sporadic violations. And peace talks involving Russia, Ukraine and the rebels will resume tomorrow in Belarus.
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