the republic logo

US believes Russian-directed counteroffensive 'likely underway' in Ukraine

bug
Share/Save/Bookmark

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration accused Russia on Wednesday of orchestrating a new military campaign in Ukraine that is helping rebel forces expand their fight in the country's east and sending tanks, rocket launchers and armored vehicles toward communities elsewhere.

"These incursions indicate a Russian-directed counteroffensive is likely underway in Donetsk and Luhansk," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters, referring to two rebel regions in eastern Ukraine. She also voiced concern about overnight deliveries of materiel in southeast Ukraine, where separatists on Wednesday entered a key town linking Russia to the Crimean Peninsula it recently annexed.

The reports of Russian activity are the latest wrinkle in months of fighting in Ukraine that spiraled out of street protests against the former government, the ouster of a pro-Russian president and then rebellion in the most pro-Russian parts of the country. Ukraine and Western governments say Moscow has played a direct role in escalating the conflict, though Moscow denies directly supporting separatists.

Psaki said Russia was being dishonest about its actions, even to its own people.

PHOTO: Ukrainian soldiers park their hardware on roadside as they are waiting for the start of the march into the town of Mariupol, eastern Ukraine, Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2014. Heavy shelling hit a town of Novoazovsk in southeastern Ukraine on Wednesday, the third day of an assault that has forced government troops to spread their ranks thinner along the Russian border. Ukraine claimed the shelling was coming both from pro-Russian separatists and from Russia itself. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)
Ukrainian soldiers park their hardware on roadside as they are waiting for the start of the march into the town of Mariupol, eastern Ukraine, Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2014. Heavy shelling hit a town of Novoazovsk in southeastern Ukraine on Wednesday, the third day of an assault that has forced government troops to spread their ranks thinner along the Russian border. Ukraine claimed the shelling was coming both from pro-Russian separatists and from Russia itself. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)

Russian forces, she said, are being sent 30 miles inside Ukraine, without them or their families knowing where they are going. She cited reports of burials in Russia for those who've died in Ukraine and wounded Russian soldiers being treated in a St. Petersburg hospital. She said such actions show Russia isn't acting transparently.

Despite the critical rhetoric, Psaki didn't outline any immediate response.

She said the U.S. had options at its disposal, including giving more nonlethal assistance to Ukraine's military and possible coordinated sanctions with European allies. President Barack Obama and European allies will discuss Ukraine at next week's NATO summit, she said, but didn't outline any imminent steps Washington was considering.

The mayor of Novoazovsk, a port in southeastern Ukraine, said rebel forces entered his town Wednesday after three days of heavy shelling, capturing territory far from most battles with government troops. It wasn't clear if the rebels reached the area via Russia.

The new southeastern front raises fears the separatists are seeking to create a land link between Russia and Crimea. Novoazovsk lies on the Azov Sea on the road between the territories. If Russia or its proxies seize southeastern Ukraine, it would give them control over the entire Azov Sea and any oil or mineral riches it contains.

On Tuesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Ukrainian counterpart, Petro Poroshenko, met in the Belarusian capital of Minsk for their first ever one-on-one meeting, lasting more than two hours. There was no indication of a swift resolution to the fighting.

Think your friends should see this? Share it with them!

All comments are moderated before posting. Your email address must be verified with Disqus in order for your comment to appear.
View our commenting guidelines and FAQ's here.

Story copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Feedback, Corrections and Other Requests: AP welcomes feedback and comments from readers. Send an email to info@ap.org and it will be forwarded to the appropriate editor or reporter.


We also have more stories about:
(click the phrases to see a list)

Category:

Follow The Republic:

All content copyright ©2014 The Republic, a division of Home News Enterprises unless otherwise noted.
All rights reserved. Privacy policy.