Dec 15, 3:26 PM EST

Ukraine prime minister asks NATO, EU for more help

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BRUSSELS (AP) -- Ukraine's prime minister on Monday asked NATO to do more to help his country's military, which has been unable to quell a pro-Russian insurgency, and called for an urgent increase in financial aid from the European Union.

"It's difficult for us to fight with a nuclear state that is armed to the teeth," Arseniy Yatsenyuk said. He accused Vladimir Putin's Russia of seeking to eradicate an independent Ukraine.

Visiting NATO headquarters, Yatsenyuk said he asked the alliance's secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, for assistance in shaping a new defense and national security strategy for his country. He said he also sought "additional support" for Ukraine's Department of Defense and Department of Homeland Security "to improve the stance of the Ukrainian military and the National Guard."

He gave no specifics, and Stoltenberg did not comment on NATO's reply to the request.

Later, Yatsenyuk attended the inaugural meeting of the Association Council between Ukraine and the European Union, which is supposed to lay the groundwork for Ukraine's political association and economic integration with the 28-nation bloc.

He said his government was committed to free-market and legal reforms, but that Ukraine's economy has been devastated by the ongoing conflict with Russia.

The Kremlin unilaterally annexed Crimea in March, and Ukrainian forces have been combating a pro-Moscow rebellion in the country's east that NATO and Western governments charge is managed, supplied and staffed by Putin's government and military.

Because of Russian aggression, Ukraine has lost 20 percent of its economic output, Yatsenyuk said.

"When we need financial assistance, let me put it in a nutshell: yesterday," he told reporters in English.

EU Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn said the best response to people trying to destabilize Ukraine was to make it a "prosperous and safe country that is open to business." Any sizeable increase in foreign financial assistance, though, is unlikely before an international conference expected in early 2015.

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