WASHINGTON, Aug. 5, 2014 —
A small survey and assessment team dispatched by U.S. European Command has arrived in the Ukrainian capital Kyiv to advise in investigation and recovery efforts following the downing of a Malaysian airliner over the country last month.
At the request of the State Department, the team of about 12 service members will assess, advise and provide recommendations to the U.S. embassy and their staff about possible U.S. support to the Netherlands, Australia, Malaysia and other countries that are conducting Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 recovery operations, Pentagon Press Secretary Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby said.
The troops provide expertise in recovery operations -- specifically communications, logistics and surveying -- and they will not leave Kyiv, Kirby noted.
Nearly 300 people were killed when the Malaysia Airlines jet was blown out of the sky over eastern Ukraine July 17 in an attack that U.S. officials have blamed on Russian-armed Ukrainian separatists. Russia and Ukraine have denied involvement in the incident.
“Recovery operations [are] something, tragically and unfortunately, the U.S. military has to do and has to be good at,” the admiral said.
On Ukraine’s southeastern border, heavy equipment continues to flow back and forth across the border from Russia in support of separatists there, Kirby said and that Russia continues
to reinforce its troops in the area. More than 10,000 Russian troops are now located on the border, he said, adding that “numbers aren’t the key metric” in determining the troop presence’s effects on the region.
“What matters is that they [Russia] continue to reinforce these units, that they are very capable and very ready across what we call combined arms capabilities -- armor, artillery, air defense, special forces -- and that they are closer to the border than they were in the spring,” the admiral said.
“These units are not as numerous ... but they're very capable and they're very close, and they are doing nothing but continuing to escalate the tension that exists inside eastern Ukraine,” Kirby said.
(Follow Claudette Roulo on Twitter: @roulododnews)