WASHINGTON, July 23, 2014 —
Despite questions about its possible role in last week’s downing of a commercial airliner over Ukraine, Russia continues to arm and train pro-Russian separatists in the region and has dispatched more than 100 additional pieces of military equipment across the border in recent days, a Pentagon spokesman said today.
“We know that they sent, for example, last week a column of over 100 vehicles which included tanks, artillery, multiple launch rocket systems,” Army Col. Steve Warren said, adding that these actions are consistent with Moscow’s behavior in eastern Ukraine for several months.
Warren spoke as an international investigation was just beginning into the downing of a Malaysian airliner over rebel-controlled eastern Ukraine on July 17. U.S. and European officials have said a Russian-made, anti-aircraft missile fired from the region brought the plane down, killing all 298 people on board, an attack that President Barack Obama has described as “an outrage of unspeakable proportions.”
In an exchange with reporters today, Warren said the United States does not know who, in particular, fired the missile that blew Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 out of the sky, but he made clear Russia must share in the blame.
“There is no question that the Russians are backing these separatists and they bear responsibility … for what happens in eastern Ukraine,” he said. Moscow, he added, continues to maintain as many as 12,000 troops along the Ukrainian border.
Russia has denied involvement in the downing of the airliner.
Warren said he was aware of fresh reports from Ukraine that two Ukrainian fighter jets were shot down today over an area held by separatists.
“We are continuing to work with the Ukrainians and through our own channels to determine the exact circumstances surrounding that incident,” he said.
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