News / Europe

US Defense Department Warns of Arms to Eastern Ukraine

  • Netherlands Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans (right) speaks to the media while a Dutch military cargo plane with bodies of some of the passengers of the downed Malaysia Airlines jetliner leaves Ukraine for the Netherlands, July 25, 2014.
  • Netherlands Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans, right, and Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop speak to each other as a Dutch military cargo plane with bodies of some of the passengers of the downed Malaysia Airlines jetliner leaves Ukraine, July 25, 2014.
  • A Hercules transport aircraft of the Royal Dutch Airforce (right) and a Royal Australian Air Force Boeing C-17 are seen at an airstrip before transporting some of the remains of the victims of the downed Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 airliner, at Kharkiv airport, Ukraine, July 25, 2014.
  • An Australian military cargo plane with bodies of some of the passengers of the downed Malaysia Airlines jetliner leaves for the Netherlands from Kharkiv airport, Ukraine, July 25, 2014. 
  • Shoppers take photos next to prayer notes for passengers aboard Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 at a shopping mall in Kuala Lumpur, July 24, 2014.
  • Children walk past a piece of wreckage from the Malaysia Airlines jet downed over Ukraine, in Petropavlivka village, Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine, July 23, 2014.
  • People attend a silent remembrance for the victims in the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, in Amsterdam,  July 23, 2014.
  • King Willem-Alexander, left, Queen Maxima and Prime Minister Mark Rutte, right, observe a minute of silence during a ceremony to mark the return of the first bodies of passengers and crew killed in the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, Eindhoven, Netherlands, July 23, 2014.
  • People pay their respects as a convoy of hearses, bearing remains of the victims of the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 crash, drive past in Hilversum, Netherlands, July 23, 2014.
Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17
VOA News

The top U.S. military officer says he thinks Russia is a reluctant participant in Ukraine's conflict.

General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, says he believes the Russian military and its leaders are "probably somewhat reluctant participants" in the form of warfare being used in Ukraine.

Dempsey's comments come as the U.S. has accused Russia of an imminent transfer of Russian arms to Ukrainian separatists.  The U.S. has also accused Russia of continuing to fire artillery across the border into Ukraine, but the U.S. says it has seen no indications that Ukraine has fired into Russia.

General Dempsey, speaking at a security forum in the western U.S. state of Colorado, said he is concerned that the "rising tide of nationalism" that has been ignited in Russia may slip into other parts of Europe. 

"My fear is actually, you know if I have a fear about this it's that Putin may actually light a fire that he loses control of," said Dempsey. "In other words, you know I; these ethnic enclaves, there's a rising tide of nationalism and nationalism can be a very dangerous instinct and impulse. There's a rising tide of nationalism in Europe right now that has been created by, in many ways, by these Russian activities that I find to be quite dangerous."

Pentagon weapons concerns

U.S. Defense Department spokesman Steve Warren said Friday officials believe the transfer of Russian arms into Ukraine will involve "heavier caliber, more capable" artillery systems than those used previously.  The U.S. for weeks has said Russia is supplying the separatists with arms and equipment.

Warren said the U.S. has seen the systems moving closer to the border of Ukraine, but the Pentagon does not have an exact timeline when they will be delivered.  

Warren also said the systems being moved are surface-to-surface systems, not surface-to-air systems like the one suspected in last week's downing of a Malaysia Airlines jet in which nearly 300 people died,  "They're not precision munitions, Warren added, "and unquestionably there is an increased risk of civilian casualties.” 

Designed to destroy buildings, roads and military positions, the launchers could be a "game changer" in Ukraine, according to another Pentagon official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Warren said the advent of the Russian artillery, and potential volleys into Ukraine, pose “a great concern."

“We believe that they are able to transfer this equipment at any time,” Warren said of the Russians, noting the United States continues “to work closely with the Ukrainians” on several levels, including by supplying nonlethal aid.

Warren said these new developments are of "great concern," as they signal a likely increase in the risk of civilian casualties in eastern Ukraine.

EU adds sanctions

European Union ambassadors met on Friday in Brussels where they voted to extend Ukraine-related sanctions, targeting top Russian intelligence officials and leaders of the pro-Russia revolt in eastern Ukraine.  Among the 15 new people sanctioned was the head of Russia's Federal Security Service.  Eighteen companies were also added to the sanctions list.

Russia's Foreign Ministry lashed out at the new sanctions Saturday, saying in a statement they will undermine the fight against terrorism by limiting cooperation from Moscow.

On Thursday, U.S. President Barack Obama spoke to Prime Minister Mark Rutte of the Netherlands.  White House officials said the leaders agreed in the evening conversation that more sanctions need to be imposed on Russia.

Dutch, Australian and Ukrainian foreign ministers met in Kyiv Thursday to discuss the recovery process.  They demanded that an international team under the authority of the United Nations secure the crash site so the rest of the remains can be collected and the investigation proceed without interference from separatists.

The U.S. has sent investigators from at least two federal agencies – the Federal Bureau of Investigation and National Transportation and Safety Board – to assist with the crash investigation.

Australia beefs up security team

Australia is close to finalizing a plan to send 100 additional police and some defense force personnel to Europe to join a planned Dutch-led international security force to secure the crash site, Prime Minister Tony Abbott said Friday.

Armed pro-Russian separatists control the area and have hampered investigators' attempts to access.

The Australian Federal Police (AFP) officers, some of whom will be armed, will join a contingent of 90 AFP officers already in London waiting for a deal with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko to be approved by the country's parliament.

Abbott stressed that the team, which would include countries that lost citizens in the disaster, would not be going in as part of a military mission.

“This is a humanitarian mission, with a clear and simple objective,” Abbott told reporters. “I expect the operation on the ground in Ukraine, should the deployment go ahead, to last no longer than a few weeks.”

Search and recovery

The international police team would be tasked with ensuring a thorough search of the site so all remains are recovered and sent to the Netherlands for identification. The mission would be complete within a few weeks of arriving, Abbott told the Associated Press.

Abbott announced on Thursday that 50 police officers had been deployed to London ahead of the mission, but a police spokeswoman said on Friday that the number was 90. It was unclear why the discrepancy had occurred.

On Tuesday, Abbott said that Russian-backed rebels were tampering with evidence on “an industrial scale” and argued that outside police or possibly military forces were needed to ensure that did not continue.

The Boeing 777 was shot down last week in eastern Ukraine en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, killing all 298 passengers and crew on board. Twenty eight Australians were killed. 

The urgency to secure the area grew after three Australian officials traveled to the crash site on Thursday and found more wreckage and human remains, Abbott said.

"With these remains exposed to the ravages of heat and animals and to the continuing possibility of human interference, it's more important than ever that the site be properly secured," Abbott told AP. "Our objective is the remains can be recovered, that the investigation can go ahead and that justice can be done."

Ukrainian offensive

Elsewhere, the French news agency AFP reported Ukrainian troops have retaken the strategically important city of Lysychansk in eastern Ukraine, as they press on with their offensive to stamp out a pro-Russian rebellion,  Poroshenko said.

"Ukrainian forces have raised the flag over the town council in Lysychansk," the presidency said in a statement late Thursday.

Lysychansk - a city of around 105,000 some 90 kilometers northwest of the rebel stronghold of Luhansk - was seized by separatists in early April at the start of a bloody insurgency that has now claimed the lives of some 1,000 people, including the nearly 300 on board downed Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, AFP reported.

VOA's Jeff Seldin contributed to this report from the Pentagon. Additional information was provided by Reuters and the Associated Press.


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Comment Sorting
Comments page of 2
by: Smart Sam
July 26, 2014 11:23 PM
Extremely doubtful the USA is supplying BUK missile batteries or equivalent to the Syrian rebels. It would be interesting to know if Syria possesses BUK missiles, courtesy of Russia.
President Assad and his armed forces have been responsible for the deaths of thousands of civillians and creating thousands of refugees, hardly humanitarian action by a caring Government.
In Response

by: bcdemon from: Canada
July 27, 2014 8:47 AM
The USA is supplying the Syrian rebels with TOW anti tank missiles, Saudi Arabia is giving them SAMs, among other weapons.
And Syria has Chinese made BUK M1.
It's alarming to see ISIS running rampant across the ME with US military issue guns

by: nvr from: USA
July 26, 2014 2:14 PM
And the US Government is sending advanced weapons to the Syrian rebels who are fighting to over throw the government which they feel is cruel and unjust to them....

Hey, just like the Ukrainian rebels are.

by: Smart Sam
July 26, 2014 1:18 PM
Reluctant participant, not likely, Russia should understand that supply of sophisticated weaponry to ethnic enclaves is fraught with danger as they no longer have control as to its use. Russia though,has the force to disarm these enclaves ensuring stability. The REAL dilemma is how much and for how long, has Russia been supplying this weaponry, something the separatists shall not hand back willingly.
In Response

by: Mr nobody from: USA
July 27, 2014 10:19 AM
"Reluctant participant in Ukraine". Crimea is part of Ukraine. Russia looks pretty happy about their participation in the Crimea. Russia is reluctant about losing in Eastern Ukraine that is about it.

Is Eastern Ukraine part of Russia?

What limits are there on the type weaponry that that Russia has in the Ukraine??

Certainly Crimea has no limits on arms deployed there, so why should Eastern Ukraine?

by: A G Dorsey from: Ekaterinaburg
July 26, 2014 11:37 AM
Adolf V Putin IS god's curse to russia.

by: Godwin from: Nigeria
July 26, 2014 10:52 AM
Petro Poroshenk to Obama: “time to act is now”. Poroshenk wants to blast off the third world war and the second cold war. He is calling on a president who has been shy of going into war in Syria because Americans are war weary. This is a call to a president who had to remove the option of armed conflict from the table of nuclear negotiations with Iran, even though he pretends to have it there, because Americans are not going to be sacrificed for a cause that is theirs. “Time to act is now” is a call to a president who claimed to be obeying public opinion at the home front and so could not remember where he had earlier drawn a redline and so tripped on it. If Obama could not go to war in Syria that was considered small fry because he did not just consider the small speck – Syria – dancing in the sun, but watched out for the big masquerade behind it – Russia – how would he explain having to engage in a bigger war that is capable of going nuclear – Russia – in a direct confrontation? It may be true that Russia has less number of alliances on its side, but it also has the added advantage of the readiness of its allies to be called into action than the NATO group which must have to overcome home front to obtain people’s mandate to take them into war. In the absence of alliances on its side, Russia has the largest arsenal of nuclear arms on land, in the sea and in space, all of which can be deployed at short notice, if needed. The experience with Adolf Hitler – even though I am not going to compare him with President Vladimir Putin – shows that at the critical moment of the battle, had he had a nuclear bomb, he would have done what USA did to Japan, and perhaps much earlier than the US did it. Having a precedent at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, it might just be a race of who first releases the bomb to cripple the opponent. So does Petro Poroshenko understand what he is asking Mr. Barrack Obama to do when he said “time is now”? Or would he ignorantly declare a war only to regret it later when it metamorphoses into the third worldwar

by: Tamila from: Germany
July 26, 2014 10:09 AM
Russia must be punished for its actions over Ukraine and MH 17!
In Response

by: bcdemon from: Canada
July 27, 2014 8:54 AM
Why not punish the Ukraine gov for sending a civilian aircraft over a war zone. Punish them for having an SU-25 (military jet) flying in a civilian aircraft corridor, following MH17.
Ask the Ukraine gov why they had moved a BUK system from the west of Donetsk to the south of Donetsk the day before MH17 was shot down.
And maybe ask the US government to release their "intelligence" on how Russia is involved.

by: Magy from: Romania
July 26, 2014 3:07 AM
I guess everything is preaty much about economics. US and EU wants inflation, and the most straight forward way to stimulate inflation is to do something about the price of energy, and this means sanctions. You may ask why in the world US or EU needs inflation? Well when the debt is so big, inflation is the only way. But the problem is that level 3, sanctions will also weaken the economy of Europe. While for US, sanctions on Russia is beneficial, for EU is a double edge sword, in fact bad.

by: Hung Manh from: Vietnam
July 26, 2014 2:46 AM
Hey, we are not stupid enough to waste our time for the words without proof from the Pentagon. You are talking like a parrot. Pls give out evidence or simply keep silent!
In Response

by: Dan from: Philadelphia
July 26, 2014 5:47 PM
Proof from my Pentagon?! you have no idea how much assistance our defense department is giving... I know it to be a lot. Keep silent?! The US is "damned if it does and damned if it doesn't", as usual. Ukraine is lucky we intervene in any way, and my friends from Donbas and other parts of Ukraine have expressed this to me personally.

by: Zuy from: Paris
July 26, 2014 2:41 AM
How can it be possible that country with just 140 millions population can resist all the world?! We must impose severe sanctions on Russia,stop lend to it,stop sell arms to Moscow! We must do everything to make drunken Russians to go out to the streets chanting"Putin resign!!!!"
In Response

by: Sergey from: SPb
July 28, 2014 3:05 AM
How can it be possible that country with as much as 45 millions population constantly vent a grievance of spiteful Russia (with just 140 millions population) and insidious Putin, that impudently legislate against killing some wrong citizens of Ukraine?
In Response

by: nvr from: USA
July 26, 2014 2:21 PM
Well Zuy from Paris, maybe if the Ukrainians would put down their bottles of vodka as well and realized that these Freedom Fighters in Eastern Ukraine want to be free from the dictates of the Oligarch in Kiev just maybe a rational and civilized compromise which protects the Ukrainians in the East, Kiev and Russia can be accomplished.

by: terrence from: singapore
July 26, 2014 2:39 AM
Beware Putin the Bear, you antagonise him, you smear him, you mock him, you will then provoke him.
Then he will not only swipe you with his burly paws, he will crush you with his adorable bear hug and swallow your head off.
Beware, show evidence not just rhetoric say 'we have evidence. like you and Colin Powell did on Iraq's WMD sad, very sad, to this day we are awaiting for evidence that never was.
I am viewing your WWE wrestling and that your evidence is simulation of this,
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