MOSCOW, Russia (UPDATED) – President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman denied Sunday, August 17, a Ukrainian separatist leader’s claim that the insurgents had just received a large shipment of weapons and armored vehicles from Russia.
“We have repeatedly said that no equipment is being sent there,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Govorit Moskva radio.
The Putin aide did not mention the rebels’ additional claim of having been sent a fresh injection of troops trained “on Russian territory.”
The self-proclaimed head of the Donetsk People’s Republic told a rebel meeting in a video posted on YouTube that their units had been reinforced by 1,200 fighters “who have received 4 months of training on Russian territory.”
Separatist leader Alexander Zakharchenko added that Russia had also secretly sent 30 tanks and 120 items of other military hardware using border crossings that are under the insurgents’ control.
The announcement appeared to confirm repeated charges by Kiev and its Western allies of Putin providing illicit support for the eastern uprising in order to keep Ukraine unsettled and hamper its pro-European drive.
The militias have suffered a recent string of setbacks that has prompted a leadership overhaul and a warning that they would not be able to last much longer without urgent military help from Russia.
The foreign ministers of Russia and Ukraine were due later Sunday to address the escalating crisis during a Berlin meeting that will also be attended by their counterparts from Germany and France. – Rappler.com