- POSTED: 20 Jun 2014 23:18
- UPDATED: 20 Jun 2014 23:21
Russia has re-deployed "significant" military forces near its border with Ukraine and stockpiled additional tanks and artillery at a southwestern site, a US official said Friday.
WASHINGTON: Russia has re-deployed "significant" military forces near its border with Ukraine and stockpiled additional tanks and artillery at a southwestern site, a US official said Friday.
Washington had information that the equipment and forces were being prepared by Moscow "to provide active support for separatist fighters," a senior US administration official said.
The US was "confident" that Moscow last week sent tanks and rocket launchers from the deployment site in southwest Russia into eastern Ukraine where pro-Russian separatists are fighting to break away from Kiev, the official said, asking not to be named.
US officials have information that "additional tanks... and artillery have been accumulated" at the same site, adding they were of the same type as material used by Ukrainian forces which are trying to quell the offensive.
The news came as Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko released a sweeping peace plan for curbing the pro-Russian uprising in the separatist east that is threatening the ex-Soviet country's survival.
The 14-point initiative came after two calls made by Poroshenko to Russian President Vladimir Putin within 72 hours in the belief that no truce could work without his support.
Most of the equipment being gathered in southwest Russia is no longer in use by Russian forces "and we believe that Russia may soon provide this equipment to separatists," the US official said.
As the equipment is still used by Ukrainian forces, the aim appears to be "to mask Russia's hand" in supporting the separatists.
"Separately we have information that Russia has re-deployed significant military to its border with Ukraine," the official said, adding it was believed more forces were due to arrive in coming weeks.
Some of the troops were "within a handful of kilometres" of Ukrainian territory, "the closest they have been since the invasion of Crimea" earlier this year.