Friday, February 20, 2015

UKRAINE: U.S. Says More Russian Troops, Weapons Enter Ukraine as Pro-Russian Rebels and Russia ignore Truce

Ukraine president wants UN peacekeepers to monitor 
European leaders on Thursday stood by the cease-fire they brokered a week ago for Ukraine, even as the U.S. said Russian equipment and troops continued to flow into the country and the Ukrainian military significantly raised its latest casualty toll.
A Ukrainian solder waves at an armored vehicle. 
(AP Photo/Petr David Josek)
Kiev and its Western backers had denounced a dayslong offensive by Russia-backed separatists to seize the strategic rail hub of Debaltseve as a violation of the cease-fire. But as fighting subsided generally after the hasty retreat on Wednesday by Ukrainian forces, none of the parties appeared willing to declare the latest deal dead.
Ukrainian soldiers who left Debaltseve on Wednesday 
prepare to return to support the further withdrawal of 
troops on Thursday in Artemivsk. Photo: Getty Images
“The four leaders agreed to rigorously implement the entirety of the package of measures” agreed to on Feb. 12, the office of French President François Hollande said after the conference call with leaders from Ukraine, Russia and Germany.
“Violations of the cease- fire observed in recent days were condemned,” Mr. Hollande’s office said, without specifying which side was responsible or who had condemned them.
The agreement, reached after marathon talks in the Belarusian capital of Minsk, called for a cease-fire that began Sunday, followed by a pullback of heavy weapons by both sides and constitutional changes in Ukraine to give greater autonomy to the separatist regions.
International monitors said they had so far seen no evidence of pullbacks by either side. In the phone call, the leaders agreed it would take place after the cease-fire had taken hold across the entire front, the Ukrainian president’s office said.
Gains made by Pro-Russian Separatists with Russia's help
In Washington, however, U.S. officials said that Russian weaponry and troops continue to move into Ukraine as the separatists consolidate their control of Debaltseve. U.S. officials said the Russians have moved artillery and rocket launchers into Ukraine; equipment that the U.S. believes is operated by Russian soldiers.
“We have continued to see large quantities of Russian equipment flow from Russia into Ukraine,” said Col. Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman. “All of this Russian equipment that moves into Ukraine contributes to destabilization.”
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