Russia restarted a massive military buildup along its Ukrainian border yesterday.
The cause of the crash of a Malaysian Airlines plane in eastern Ukraine is currently unknown. But the tragedy occurred at time when tensions along the border had been increasing.
The Pentagon estimates that Russia has placed between 10,000 and 12,000 soldiers along its border with war-torn eastern Ukraine on Wednesday. There were only around 1,000 Russian troops along the border as of a few weeks ago.
The size of the Russian operation along the border raises suspicions that Moscow is providing further aid to the pro-Moscow separatists fighting throughout eastern Ukraine.
“We also have reason to believe that the Russians are continuing to support the separatist movement in Ukraine,” Pentagon spokesman Army Col. Steve Warren said.
Warren also reiterated U.S. concerns that Russia was providing the separatists with heavy weaponry. Russia is already through to have provided the separatists with MANPADS, portable surface-to-air missile systems.
Andriy Lysenko, the Ukrainian National Security and Defence Council spokesman, also accused Russia of becoming more directly involved within the conflict beyond the arming of proxy fighters.
“A military plane of the Russian Armed Forces launched a missile strike against a Su-25 aircraft of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, which performed tasks on Ukrainian territory,” Lysenko said. “Our plane was shot down.”
Multiple videos posted on YouTube Wednesday also depict volleys of Grad rockets being fired over the border from Russia into Ukraine. The videos raise the possibility that Moscow is allowing the separatists to use Russian territory to stage attacks.
This ratcheting-up of Russian involvement in the conflict comes as Ukraine has made several military gains against the separatists. Earlier this month the Ukrainian military retook the city of Slaviansk, scoring a massive symbolic victory against the rebels.
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