White House, Pentagon Blast Russia Support for Separatists

The Pentagon has stepped up criticism of Russian materiel support for separatists in Ukraine in the wake of the Malaysia Airlines flight disaster. Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby on Friday blasted Russia for providing aid to the Ukrainian rebels, saying there is “no hint that support has ceased” despite assurances, as a supply of heavy weapons, financing, and Russian fighters continue to enter Ukraine. Specifically, the US has tracked tanks and armored personnel carriers that have made their way across the border in a “steady, concerted campaign” to support, advise, and resource the rebels. President Barack Obama, who spoke earlier Friday, also said “these separatists have received a steady flow of support from Russia,” including “arms and training.” Kirby was non-committal as to who fired the surface-to-air missile that allegedly brought down the plane, but said it “strains credulity” to think the system could be used without some form of technical assistance. There is evidence “some separatists have received training” in vehicle borne SAM systems, like the SA-11, but he did not give an estimate as to how many or where the training occurred. Asked if the US has escalated ISR activity in the region, Kirby said the Defense Department is “monitoring events as closely as we can.” (Obama statement) (Kirby transcript)