WASHINGTON, Aug. 25, 2014 —
Despite Russian claims of de-escalating tensions with Ukraine, their actions, including movement of heavy equipment across the border continues to increase tension, Defense Department spokesman Army Col. Steven Warren told Pentagon reporters today.
“We’ve seen columns of Russian heavy equipment flow from Russia into Ukraine for the last several weeks,” he said. “I can confirm that there have been numerous columns of Russian heavy equipment including tanks, armored personnel carriers, rocket launchers, air defense equipment and other heavy weapons.
“It’s very concerning,” Warren continued, “and again, we continue to call on the Russians to immediately stop supporting the Ukrainian separatists and begin working towards peaceful resolution.”
The colonel noted the largest column seen entering Ukraine “about two weeks ago” consisted of over 100 pieces of rolling stock which included tanks.
“I don’t have [an] exact breakdown of how many tanks, how many APCs, how many rocket launchers, but again, this is something that we’ve seen now for several weeks,” Warren said.
“[It] is an indication that the Russians are deeply involved in this separatist movement in Ukraine,” he added, “and that they are doing the exact opposite of what they claim they want which is to de-escalate the situation.”
In fact, Warren said, defense officials believe that the Russians’ efforts are increasing the tensions and escalating the situation.
“We’ve already reported that Russian artillery and rockets have fired from Russia into Ukraine in a clear violation of Ukraine sovereignty and a clear escalation of tensions there,” he said.
There have been weapon systems, he said, such as SA-11 missile, flowing into Ukraine as a part of the columns of military equipment.
“We first started seeing those SA-11s, I believe, [at] the beginning of last week,” Warren said.
The colonel noted the department generally believes these pieces of equipment are operated by Russian-backed Ukrainian separatists, although it’s not entirely clear.
“So, again,” he said, “another indication of the Russians’ desire to escalate the situation to increase tensions and continue their support for the separatist movement in Ukraine.”
(Follow Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone Marshall on Twitter: @MarshallDoDNews)