Two people have been injured by an explosion in the Ukrainian capital as US Defence Secretary General Mattis visits the country to mark its independence day. The explosion occurred near Ukraine’s government building in the centre of the city, according to police. Local television showed images of one woman injured while another man was reportedly injured at separate location by what witnesses describe as an explosive device thrown out the window of a passing car. The attack happened as celebrations marking 26 years of Ukraine’s independence from Russia were being held nearby.
President Petro Poroshenko was joined by foreign dignitaries at a military parade where he handed out medals to Ukrainian fighters who fought against Russian-backed separatists in the eastern Donbass region. General Mattis, who attended the parade, was wrapping up a two-day visit to Ukraine to demonstrate US support for Poroshenko’s government in the four-year-long conflict which has plunged relations between NATO and Russia to their lowest ebb since the end of the Cold War. The parade passed through Maidan square, where protests broke out in 2014 that led to the ouster of the pro-Russian government of Viktor Yanukovych. Russia subsequently lent its support to insurgents in the east of the country and annexed the Ukrainian territory of Crimea. Since then, more than 10,000 people have lost their lives in the simmering conflict. “Despite Russia’s denials, we know they are seeking to redraw international borders by force, undermining the sovereign and free nations of Europe,” General Mattis said at press conference in Kiev.
His visit comes amid a buildup of NATO and Russian forces in the region with both sides accusing the other of provocation. In Washington President Donald Trump is reportedly considering a Pentagon proposal to send anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles to Ukraine to ward off further Russian aggression. His predecessor, President Obama, rejected the same plan fearing that it would escalate the conflict. When asked about the proposal General Mattis said: “… we are actively reviewing it. I will go back now having seen the current situation and be able to inform the secretary of state and the president in very specific terms what I recommend for the direction ahead.”