The United States on Thursday said Russia was shelling Ukrainian military targets from across the border, which, it said, established Moscow’s direct and escalating involvement.
But it would not definitely say if the two Ukrainian fighter jets brought down recently — after the MH17 tragedy — were shot by Russians, or separatists who bragged about it.
The United States linked Russia last week to the shooting of the Malaysian Airlines flight saying the SA-11 missile system used was far too complex for rebels to operate.
And now it has alleged direct Russian role in Ukraine.
“(We) have evidence that Russia is firing artillery from within Russia to attack Ukrainian military positions,” said state department’s Marie Harf, citing “intelligence”.
She added that the United States also had evidence that “the Russians intend to deliver heavier and more powerful, multiple rocket launchers to the separatist forces”.
Asked about reports of Russia amassing troops along its border with Ukraine, the spokesperson said at another briefing, “we would consider that escalation, yes.”
Russia has denied any role in the shooting of the Malaysian Airlines plane and has blamed it on the Ukrainian government for creating the situation that led to it.
The United States and its European allies differ (not on blame, but punishment), of course, with Washington DC piling up more evidence to push the Europeans to do more.
Earlier this week, the United States released photographic evidence to prove MH17 was downed by a missile fired from areas controlled by Russian-backed separatists.
“We do think that the downing of MH17 should be a wakeup call for Europe,” Harf said at the other briefing, which was different from her daily routine at the state department.
“This happened in their backyard. There were many Europeans on this plane. This can’t go unpunished,” she said in reply to a question about Europe’s reluctance to press Russia.
The United States targeted some of Russia’s largest companies in the last round of sanctions announced just the day before the shooting of the Malaysian jetliner last week.
European countries that far more interlinked to the Russian economy — consumer goods, energy and banking — are reluctant to follow, much to US frustration.