News / Europe

    NATO: Photos Confirm Russian Tanks Near Ukraine

    NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen pauses as he answers reporters' questions following a meeting of the North Atlantic Council in Brussels on Wednesday, June 4, 2014
    NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen pauses as he answers reporters' questions following a meeting of the North Atlantic Council in Brussels on Wednesday, June 4, 2014
    NATO on Saturday released photos that it said showed recent Russian tank movements near the Ukrainian border, one day after the U.S. State Department asserted Russia had sent tanks and heavy weaponry to separatists in Ukraine.
     
    NATO releases satellite images showing eight tanks arriving at the staging area June 6, with 10 in the area by June 11, 3 of them on transports ready to move, June, 14, 2014.NATO releases satellite images showing eight tanks arriving at the staging area June 6, with 10 in the area by June 11, 3 of them on transports ready to move, June, 14, 2014.
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    NATO releases satellite images showing eight tanks arriving at the staging area June 6, with 10 in the area by June 11, 3 of them on transports ready to move, June, 14, 2014.
    NATO releases satellite images showing eight tanks arriving at the staging area June 6, with 10 in the area by June 11, 3 of them on transports ready to move, June, 14, 2014.
    The tanks in the NATO photos were seen on the Russian side of the border, but a NATO officer told VOA that they were likely the same ones that were shown moving within eastern Ukraine in video circulating on the Internet.

    "In the context of a counter-insurgency, tanks are significant," said the official said who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak on the record. He called them a "psychologically significant platform," that could boost the morale of insurgents. 

    The official said the tanks are difficult to drive, meaning only someone who had training could operate them properly. That means it was unlikely that the separatists are driving them, he said.

    The officer told VOA that the convoy was part of a larger group of military vehicles assembled at a staging area near Rostov-on-Don, about 50 miles from the border with Ukraine. Among them were at least 10 T-64 battle tanks - a Russian model that originally was scheduled to be scrapped but has remained operational.

    Russia has about 2,000 functional T-64 tanks at its disposal, the officer said.

    Moscow has denied that it supplies or directs the separatist forces in Ukraine, and the rebels battling Ukrainian troops say they have acquired their weapons from government stockpiles.

    A day earlier, the U.S. State Department asserted Friday that Russia had in fact sent tanks and other heavy weapons to separatists. Photos and video circulating on the Internet showed as many as three tanks crossing the border near the Ukrainian town of Snizhne.

    State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said that a convoy of three T-64 tanks, several rocket launchers, and other military vehicles crossed the border in the last three days. She called the move "unacceptable."

    The Ukrainian Army said it had destroyed two of the tanks and several other vehicles in the convoy.

    NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said Friday that if reports of "pro-Russian armed gangs" acquiring heavy weapons from Russia were confirmed, it would mark "a serious escalation" of the crisis in eastern Ukraine.

    Russia, which annexed Ukraine's Crimea peninsula in March, has repeatedly said it would not make further intrusions into Ukrainian territory.

    Meanwhile, Ukraine's government said that its security forces regained control of Mariupol, a port city in the Donetsk region that has changed hands several times.

    Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said Ukrainian forces raised the country's flag over city hall.  

    In another development, Russian forces began military exercises Thursday in the Baltic Sea enclave of Kaliningrad. Moscow says the exercises are a response to ongoing NATO maneuvers in European NATO countries near its borders. 

    Kaliningrad is a tiny Russian territory wedged between NATO member-states Lithuania and Poland.

    In Moscow Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin marked one of Russia's main holidays, Russia Day, with praise for the annexation of Crimea.

    In an address, Putin said the peninsula and its strategic Black Sea port of Sevastopol have come back to their "homeland."  

    Western governments and the United Nations say Crimea has been occupied by Russian soldiers.

    Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.

    Jeff Seldin

    Jeff works out of VOA’s Washington headquarters and is national security correspondent. You can follow Jeff on Twitter at @jseldin or on Google Plus.

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    Comment Sorting
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    by: AlexD
    June 20, 2014 12:02 PM
    I recently found out that throughout the whole territory of Russia the military commissariats are recruiting volunteers elsewhere to fight on the side of the pro-Russian separatists there in eastern Ukraine. It was reported about this in “Novaya Gazeta”. As far as I know the Russian recruits are paid apprx. 800-1000 dollars a day for that job to help the pro-Russian separatists in keeping the war against the Ukrainian army. Why the U.S. does not take any further sanctions against Russia and against its recruiting the militants it is beyond my understanding.

    by: Mark from: Virginia
    June 15, 2014 7:37 AM
    I think the character in the 1930 version of the film "All Quiet on the Western Front", Katczinsky, had the right idea, when he suggested to rope off a field and stripping down the 'kings' and their ministers to their underwear and forcing them to fight it out with clubs. The last man standing is declared the winner.

    That is the only way to truly solve international disputes. Okay, a bit of tongue-in-cheek, but hey, it would give many leaders of countries today some pause and rethink their ideas if it were their skins on the line instead of sending others out to do the fighting and dying.
    In Response

    by: meanbill from: USA
    June 15, 2014 3:26 PM
    REMEMBER when Ho Chi Minh told America; "If you want to fight a war for (40) years or more, we'll fight a war for (40) years or more, but if you want to sit down and drink tea together, we'll sit down and drink tea together, and talk" -- (AND NOW?) -- How long will it take for Ukraine, the US, EU, and other NATO countries to decide, to sit down together, drink tea, and talk? .. ... (HOW LONG?)

    by: mike from: houston
    June 15, 2014 6:22 AM
    So Russian tanks are moving on Russian soil and it is a cause for panic, but Ukraine drive an actual APC into Russia is ignored. The video of a Russian tank in a nondescript street is unsourced. Nobody can document where or even when it was taken. This is more "Saddam has nuclear weapons" crap to trick us into a real war, this time with Russia. As for comments from the US State Department, after the aforesaid "Saddam has nukes" and Benghazi, nobody should believe a word they say! Because Putin isn't stupid enough to send tanks into Ukraine, and were stupid enough to send tanks, it would be a hell of a lot more than just three!

    by: dacos from: Europe
    June 14, 2014 7:55 PM
    So NATO is having military drills near russian borders, then Russia responds by also performing military drills on their own territory and then NATO claims they are invading and gives us satellite images of MBTs in the area and on low loaders. I'd say having that scale military drills involves MBTs participating. They really think this is any kind of proof?

    by: rob from: us
    June 14, 2014 7:46 PM
    Why might there be Russian tanks near the Ukrainian border? Gee I don't know. it might have something to do with the civil war happening on that border.

    by: Lev Havryliv from: Sydney
    June 14, 2014 7:16 PM
    Ramp up sanctions against Russia!

    Boycott everything Russian!

    Europe does not need another Hitler or Miloshevich.
    In Response

    by: kenny from: chicaog
    June 14, 2014 11:08 PM
    Putin knows that Obama is incompetent and corrupt. Putin no longer fears the United States because Obama is naive and corrupt. Obama is a narcissist who only cares about his parties. China also knows about Obama. The United States elected a dimwit supported by a corrupt news media. People are now dying because the US news media made it happen.

    by: Popsiq from: Buganda
    June 14, 2014 6:00 PM
    Well duh, Ukrainian Armed Forces' armored vehicles crossed into Russia yesterday - probably by mistake - a they immediately turned around and fled. Except for one that conveniently broke down and was abandoned - leaving the Russians with physical proof of an incursion.

    Which, by the way is sorely lacking in the case of the three 'rebel tanks' which are T64 models configured like those serving with the Ukrainian government forces in the Donets and Lugansk regions.

    Or is Russia not allowed to defend its own territory now?

    by: Delmonte from: USA
    June 14, 2014 5:40 PM
    EU n Obama broke it. Now,Putin is going to fix it.

    by: Steve from: Berkeley The Bear Lair
    June 14, 2014 3:36 PM
    This isn't news its manufactured propaganda. Russia is also "near" Ukraine in fact it sits on the border! Say what? NATO's aggression against Russia is falling apart after the ill advised coup staged in Kiev. It's interesting the Israel hasn't supported it probably because they saw the same Nazi flags many saw when the coup was launched. NATO is about to get is collective teeth kicked in and lose big time in Ukraine which will turn out ot have been a colossal blunder as it seeks hegemony over Europe and Russia. Trying to absorb Russia has failed and will fail as the EU gets a bad case of indigestion.
    In Response

    by: Popsiq from: Buganda
    June 14, 2014 6:06 PM
    You mean 'truth' is vouchsafed only to Americans not near Berkeley? That explains the verbatim postings that come from Kyiv, the capital of NovoEukrainia.

    When it's that 'truthy' there's no need to even think about it. And the interim government PR department in Kyiv, while no experts, are like retards making excuses for wrecking the house - sometimes you can't help but believe them, they seem to mean it so.
    In Response

    by: cygnusx1 from: U.S.
    June 14, 2014 4:55 PM
    You declared your ideology the second you typed Berkeley. It never ceases to amaze me when nouveau-educated stalwarts such as you from lofty ivy-covered institutions of higher learning [sic] brainwash yourselves silly into such anti-establishment fervor that you trot out Nazi's, Israel, and grandiose conspiracy theories of Europe trying to swallow Russia. Please amuse me further by suggesting that Russia has the moral high ground. I'm giddy with anticipation.

    by: james ha from: usa
    June 14, 2014 2:25 PM
    The photo of a Russian tank in a nondescript street is unsourced. Nobody can document where or even when it was taken. This is more "Saddam has nuclear weapons" crap to trick us into a real war, this time with Russia. As for comments from the US State Department, after the aforesaid "Saddam has nukes" and Benghazi, nobody should believe a word they say.

    also, russia did not "annex" crimea - crimeans voted overwhelmingly to become part of the russian federation.
    In Response

    by: rubens from: USA
    June 14, 2014 4:39 PM
    jame ha, it seems pretty obvious already that you are part of one of those grops of media trolls payed by Russia. And I think you are about to get fired, 'cause you really are not doing a god job. Anyway, just for fun: 1) check the photos and try a new comment 2) if you consider that a legal referendum, in wich US state have you been living? 3) here we write USA, be more clever and show some respect, do not use usa
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