Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel hopped on the phone with his Russian counterpart today after Ukraine military forces took out part of a column of Russian armored vehicles that crossed into their country.
Hagel spoke with Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu “to discuss the ongoing situation in Ukraine,” Pentagon press secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby said in a readout of the call late Friday afternoon. “Specifically, Secretary Hagel requested clarification regarding the Russian humanitarian convoy. Minister Shoygu ‘guaranteed’ that there were no Russian military personnel involved in the humanitarian convoy, nor was the convoy to be used as a pretext to further intervene in Ukraine.”
“He acknowledged that the goods would be delivered and distributed under the International Committee of the Red Cross,” Kirby continued. “Minister Shoygu assured Secretary Hagel that Russia was meeting Ukraine’s conditions.”
The Guardian’s Moscow correspondent tweeted last night that he and the Telegraph’s correspondent “just saw a column of APCs and vehicles with official Russian military plates cross border into Ukraine.”
NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen confirmed to reporters on Friday that a “Russian incursion” had taken place overnight.
“It just confirms the fact that we see a continuous flow of weapons and fighters from Russia into eastern Ukraine and it is a clear demonstration of continued Russian involvement in the destabilisation of eastern Ukraine,” Rasmussen said.
“Russia’s continued unlawful incursions into Ukraine are further evidence of Vladimir Putin’s malicious plan for usurping large portions of Ukrainian territory. Russia continues to provide illicit arms and other lethal material to separatist rebels in Eastern Ukraine, and recent attempts to utilize ‘humanitarian convoys’ to transport troops and military supplies into Ukraine have only escalated this conflict. This slow motion invasion of Ukraine by Russia is abhorrent and the United States and Europe need to renew our support for the Ukrainian government,” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, said in a statement.
“The president’s approach to this situation has failed to deter Putin from once again invading a sovereign country. The Obama administration should stop dithering and immediately deliver lethal assistance that has long been requested by the Ukrainian government,” Rubio continued.
“Along with our European allies, the U.S. should quickly impose additional sanctions to effect the Russian economy, targeting all transactions with key Russian sectors, including energy. Finally, Europe and America need to move expeditiously to begin to stem Europe’s energy dependence on Russia. This is a long term project, but Putin’s goals are now more clear than ever and drastic action will be necessary to strip Putin of his ability to intimidate Europe.”
Sens. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) asked President Obama yesterday to share intelligence with Ukraine and send weapons.
“President Putin, undeterred by international condemnation, has provided heavy weapons to separatists, including tracked and armored vehicles and the advanced missile and radar systems that took down MH-17. In light of these developments, we should supply the Ukrainian military with appropriate defensive weapons such as anti-tank weapons to help them reclaim their territory,” McCain and Donnelly wrote.
“…We must stand decisively in support of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. The future of Ukraine should be determined in Kiev, not Moscow. Our enhanced support will send a strong message to President Putin that efforts to expand or cement Russia’s influence through foreign aggression will not succeed and that Russian-backed rebels must resolve their political differences through the peaceful means offered in good faith by their democratic government.”