Russia firing artillery over the border at Ukraine military
While the attention of the US is focused on Gaza, Vladimir Putin has decided to escalate Russian involvement in the Ukraine government's war against pro-Russian separatists by giving their forces fire support from inside Russia.
The Pentagon reports that not only has the flow of heavy weapons from Russia to the separatists increased, but that the Russian military is directing artillery fire at Ukrainian army positions from inside Russia.
Obama administration officials said Thursday that Russia is firing artillery from its own territory into Ukraine to hit Ukrainian military sites, pointing to escalating Russian involvement in the deadly conflict.
"This clearly is a military escalation," Pentagon spokesman Col. Steve Warren said, adding there is no question that Russian military -- as opposed to Russia-backed separatists -- are firing the shots.
State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf first made the accusation during a press briefing earlier Thursday. She also claimed Moscow is boosting its military shipments to pro-Russian separatists.
"We have new evidence that the Russians intend to deliver heavier and more powerful multiple rocket launchers to separatist forces in Ukraine and have evidence that Russia is firing artillery from within Russian to attack Ukrainian military positions," Harf told reporters.
She said the evidence derived from "human intelligence information" but declined to elaborate, saying it would compromise sources and methods of intelligence collection.
The Pentagon, though, confirmed her account, and said Russia has been firing artillery for several days now.
The allegations come amid an increasingly bitter war of words between Washington and Moscow over the crisis in Ukraine and conflicting claims over the downing of a Malaysian passenger jet over eastern Ukraine last week.
The U.S. repeatedly has accused Russia of stoking the Ukraine rebellion and has said it believes separatists shot down the Malaysian plane, killing nearly 300 people, with a Russian provided surface-to-air missile.
Harf said Wednesday the ultimate responsibility for the downing of the plane rests with Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Russian government.
Former CIA director Gen. Michael Hayden told Megyn Kelly Thursday night on "The Kelly File" that in light of recent developments, "it's not just about Ukraine now, it's about what Europe is going to look like for the next era."
Putin has probed and prodded the west - especially the US - looking for signs of resistance. Failing to find any, he has now decided to take a direct hand in the Ukraine war. Obama may be congratulating himself on not sending any troops to the Ukraine while accusing his opponents of wanting to start a war. But his terribly weak response to Russian aggression is only fueling Putin's appetite for territory. US support for the Ukrainian government has also come up short of what's necessary, which leaves Kiev hanging out to dry.
Not even the downing of a passenger jet with Russian assistance has elicited more than harsh words. Those words are not being backed up with strong sanctions and Europe is more divided today than it was before HK17 was shot down. The lack of American leadership is striking and an open invitation to Putin to continue his escalation.