Earlier in the week senior U.S. intelligence officials admitted they have no direct evidence Russia or the separatists shot down the Malaysian airliner.
“Rather than backing down after last week’s downing of a civilian passenger jet, Russia appears to be intervening more aggressively in the war in eastern Ukraine,” The New York Times reports.
Officials say the unconfirmed move represents “a dangerous escalation that will almost certainly force more robust retaliation from the United States and Europe.”
The officials, citing satellite images and other military intelligence, said that Russia had positioned heavy weapons, including tanks and other combat vehicles, at several points along the border where there has been intense fighting. On Thursday, Russia unleashed artillery attacks on eastern Ukraine from Russian territory, officials in Washington and Kiev said. While Russia flatly denied accelerating its intervention on Friday, American and Ukrainian officials said Moscow appeared anxious to stem gains by government forces that have succeeded in retaking some rebel-held territory.
Russia denies the accusation. “We deny the unfounded public insinuations that State Department spokeswoman [Marie] Harf repeats day after day,” The Russian foreign ministry said.
“In journalistic briefings in previous days she has produced anti-Russian clichés that Washington stubbornly tries to impose on international opinion,” a statement released by the ministry said.
“Harf’s latest allegations included the phantom artillery fire and secret evidence of Russia planning to maybe send a bunch more weapons to the rebels,” Jason Ditz wrote on Thursday. “One member of the assembled press, humorously, asked if there was ‘a YouTube video or something that you can point us to,’ calling back to Harf’s regular use of social media as ‘proof’ for her claims.”
Russia has accused Ukraine of firing mortar shells across the border in an attempt to kill investigators following up on reports of cross-border shooting, according to Reuters.
The Pentagon insists it has evidence that Russia has moved “powerful rocket systems” closer to the Ukraine border and “they could be put into the hands of the Russian-backed separatists as soon as Friday,” the Associated Press reports.
The video below purports to show the use of Grad rockets in Ukraine. Both are undated although recently posted on Youtube.