By Stefan Bos
The announcement that the US rejected a Russian-backed proposed referendum on eastern Ukraine came after Washington agreed to provide more military aid to Ukraine amid domestic pressure on US President Donald Trump over his recent summit with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin.
Russia's ambassador to the U.S., Anatoly Antonov made a stunning announcement. He suggested that US President Donald Trump was open to the idea of supporting a referendum in eastern Ukraine on the future status of the troubled region.
Ukrainian Government forces continue to clash there with independence-seeking pro-Russian separatists in a conflict that has killed more than 10,000 people.
Ambassador Anatov said President Trump and Russian leader Vladimir Putin discussed the possibility of a referendum on eastern Ukraine during their Helsinki summit.
In separate remarks, Ambassador Anatov said through an interpreter that the two leaders discussed several ideas but complained that Ukraine's government refuses to implement what a peace agreement that was signed in Minsk, Belarus.
White House rejection
But the White House was quick to reject the Putin-backed effort to hold a referendum in eastern Ukraine on the region's future.
Instead, the US announced it would provide Ukraine $200m to strengthen its defense capabilities. In a statement, the Pentagon said the funds would be for training, communications, medical, and other non-lethal operational needs.
The US said it had given more than $1bn in defense support to Kiev since 2014.
Russia annexed Ukraine's southern Crimea peninsula that year and is also accused of arming separatists in the east of the country.
The remarks also come in the aftermath of President Donald Trump's controversial summit with the Russian leader.