WASHINGTON, July 29, 2014 —
Russian military forces continue to gather on Ukraine’s southeast border, and Russia continues to funnel heavy equipment to Russian-backed separatists in Ukraine, a Pentagon spokesman said today.
More than 10,000 Russian soldiers in combined arms battalion tactical units are massed at the border, Pentagon Press Secretary Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby said.
These battalion groups consist of infantry, armor and artillery, and also have organic air defense capabilities, the admiral said. “They are capable across a wide spectrum of military operations,” he added.
Kirby called these forces capable and ready, and he said they are closer to the Ukrainian border than Russian forces were in the spring. “We continue to see advanced weapons systems moving across the border and being provided to the separatists,” Kirby said.
These systems include multiple rocket-launched systems, artillery, tanks and air defense systems – including the air defense system that allegedly shot down the Malaysia Airline flight last week. “That activity needs to stop,” Kirby said.
U.S. concern is less about the pace of the buildup than the fact that it is happening at all, the admiral said. “It does nothing, again, to de-escalate tensions,” he said. “It only increases the risk of violence inside Ukraine.”
Meanwhile, the admiral said, the Defense Department continues to look at requests coming from the Ukrainian government. “The nonlethal support and assistance that had been previously approved has made its way in the large part … to Ukrainian security forces,” he said.
(Follow Jim Garamone on Twitter: @GaramoneDoDNews)