World Bulletin / News Desk
Fighting has abated in eastern Ukraine in recent days, raising hope that a ceasefire that was due to start on Feb. 15 can finally take effect after the rebels initially ignored it to storm the government-held town of Debaltseve last week.
Western countries have not given up on the ceasefire deal to end fighting that has killed more than 5,600 people, although they remain suspicious of the rebels and their presumed patron, Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Kiev and its Western allies say the rebels are funded and armed by Moscow and backed by Russian military units.Moscow denies aiding sympathizers in Ukraine and says heavily armed Russian-speaking troops operating without insignia there are not its men.
The chief U.S. diplomat later elaborated on the need to push back against Russia's stance it is not involved in the conflict.
"Russia ... tragically is sort of reigniting a new kind of East-West, zero-sum game that we think is dangerous and unnecessary," Kerry told U.S. lawmakers when testifying about the State Department budget.
"The question asked earlier about ... how they present things and the lies about their presence in Ukraine and the training, I mean, you know, it's stunning but it has an impact in places where it isn't countered," he said. "Propaganda works."
“Russia has engaged in a rather remarkable period of the most overt and extensive propaganda exercise that I've seen since the very height of the Cold War,” Kerry said during testimony before the Senate Appropriations committee. “And they have been persisting in their misrepresentations, lies, whatever you want to call them – about their activities there to my face, to the face of others, on many different occasions.”
President Barack Obama has considered a possible shipment of lethal defensive aid to Ukraine to bolster their efforts to defeat the separatists. But many of the U.S.’s allies in Europe have cautioned against such a move, uncertain of how Russia would respond.
When pressed by lawmakers, Kerry would not divulge his own thinking on the matter.
“That is the conversation that is taking place within the administration right now,” he said. “And until the president makes his decision, I'm going to keep my consultations personal and private with him,” he added.
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