By VANESSA GERA
WARSAW, Poland (AP) - The United States' special representative for Ukraine voiced optimism Wednesday that Russia will still choose to "make peace and withdraw from eastern Ukraine" and said that if it does, Washington stands ready to play a role in the transition.
Kurt Volker said the United States has suggested to Russia that a United Nations-mandated force could provide security following a Russian withdrawal of troops, and is waiting to hear Moscow's response.
"If Russia chooses to do that, we are prepared to help," Volker told a small group of reporters in Warsaw ahead of a speech he gave to diplomats and politicians at the German Marshall Fund for the United States, a think tank focused on trans-Atlantic cooperation.
Volker said his hope comes from the fact that Russia is now paying a huge price for its military involvement in the eastern Ukrainian region of Donbass. He cited Russia's military costs, casualties, frozen ties with the U.S. and the European Union, and unprecedented anti-Russian feelings growing among young Ukrainians.
"I think what Russia was hoping for was to see a Russian-friendly government come back in Kiev," Volker said, referring to Russia's incursions into Ukraine in 2014. "What they have done has produced the opposite effect. They have produced a Ukraine that is more nationalist, more unified, more Western-oriented, more anti-Russian, frankly, than has ever existed before."
Last week, the Trump administration told Congress that it plans to sell Ukraine 210 anti-tank missiles to help it defend its territory from Russia, in a major escalation of U.S. lethal assistance to Ukraine's military.
Volker said there were talks with Ukraine to provide further aid, including anti-sniper systems, noting that snipers are one of the leading causes of casualties among Ukrainian soldiers. The conflict has claimed 10,000 lives to date.
"This is very much a hot war, not a frozen conflict," Volker said. "The fighting continues every night. Every week a couple of Ukrainian soldiers are killed."
"We think that Russia needs to make a fundamental decision that it wants to withdraw from eastern Ukraine, the Donbass and establish peace. Peace is really in Russia's hands here."
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