The Pentagon says the transfer of heavy-caliber
multiple-launch rocket systems from Russia to Ukrainian
separatists appeared to be imminent with the arms close
enough to the border they could be handed over "potentially
"We have indications that the Russians intend to supply
heavier and more sophisticated multiple-launch rocket systems
in the very near future," said Army Colonel Steve Warren, a
Pentagon spokesman, adding that the weapons were in the
Warren indicated the weapons had been seen getting closer to
the border and the Pentagon believed a transfer was imminent
and could happen "potentially today."
"We believe that they are able to transfer this equipment at
any time, at any moment," he said.
Warren said it was unclear whether Russian operators of the
rocket launchers might cross the border as well but he said
there been indications of Russian operators of other systems
A multiple-launch rocket system is a wheeled or tracked
vehicle mounted with multiple tubes capable of firing a half
dozen or more guided or unguided rockets in quick succession
at targets scores of miles away. The rockets are generally
100mm to 300mm, with those over 200mm in the heavier-caliber
"We're very concerned with the quantity and the capability of
weapons flowing from Russia into the Ukrainian separatists'
hands," Warren said.
"There has been a continuous flow over the last several weeks
of weapons and equipment from Russia to Ukraine," he said,
noting that the "most egregious example" was a column of more
than 100 vehicles crossing the border.
The Pentagon's assessment that a transfer of heavy weaponry
was imminent came as Russian authorities accused Ukraine of
firing a volley of mortar rounds across the frontier into
Russia on Friday while a group of investigators was in the
area assessing reports of cross-border shooting.
A Russian security official said up to 40 mortar bombs fired
by Ukrainian forces fell in the Russian province of Rostov
near the border where Ukrainian government forces are
fighting pro-Russian separatists. There were no reports of
Warren also said the United States continued to see Russian
artillery on Russian soil firing on Ukrainian military
positions inside Ukraine, a practice that has been going on
for several days now.
He said he had no information about Ukrainians firing across
the border into Russia.
Warren said the Pentagon continued to see a "continuous slow
and steady buildup" of Russian forces along the border. He
said the number was still in the 10,000- to 12,000-range, but
was now "towards the high side" of that range.
Others officials estimated the size of the Russian force had
grown larger. U.S. Ambassador to NATO Douglas Lute told a
security forum in Aspen, Colorado, there were now some 15,000
Russian troops amassed along the Ukraine border.
Warren said the growing size of the Russian force was "very
concerning to us."
"We've repeatedly called on the Russians to withdraw force
from the border and to help de-escalate," he said.