I’m certain this is all part of “humanitarian aid,” right? Nothing says lovin’ like artillery fire heading for your oven, or something:
The Russian military has moved artillery units manned by Russian personnel inside Ukrainian territory in recent days and is using them to fire at Ukrainian forces, NATO officials said on Friday.
The West has long accused Russia of supporting the separatist forces in eastern Ukraine, but this is the first time it has said it had evidence of the direct involvement of the Russian military.
The Russian move represents a significant escalation of the Kremlin’s involvement in the fighting there and comes as a convoy of Russian trucks with humanitarian provisions has crossed into Ukrainian territory without Kiev’s permission.
NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Ramussen accused Russia of invading Ukraine and violating its sovereignty. And that was just in relation to the “aid convoy,” which looks much more like cover for their infiltration into eastern Ukraine:
And for the first time, NATO accused Russia of directly intervening in Ukraine, as Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said Russian artillery support is being employed against Ukrainian forces in eastern regions where fighting has raged for months.
Rasmussen said the Russian convoy had entered into Ukraine without its government’s consent and without any involvement from the Red Cross. He warned it would only escalate the crisis in the region to worrying levels, and he suggested it threw into question whether Russia’s true purpose for providing the “humanitarian” aid was to supply arms to pro-Russian separatists.
“This is a blatant breach of Russia’s international commitments, including those made recently in Berlin and Geneva, and a further violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty by Russia,” Rasmussen said. “It can only deepen the crisis in the region, which Russia itself has created and has continued to fuel. The disregard of international humanitarian principles raises further questions about whether the true purpose of the aid convoy is to support civilians or to resupply armed separatists.” …
“These developments are even more worrying as they coincide with a major escalation in Russian military involvement in Eastern Ukraine since mid-August, including the use of Russian forces. In addition, Russian artillery support – both cross-border and from within Ukraine – is being employed against the Ukrainian armed forces,” Rasmussen said.
“We have also seen transfers of large quantities of advanced weapons, including tanks, armoured personnel carriers, and artillery to separatist groups in Eastern Ukraine. Moreover, NATO is observing an alarming build-up of Russian ground and air forces in the vicinity of Ukraine.”
There’s more where that came from, too:
Just in- @barbarastarrcnn reports Russia now has up to 18,000 “combat ready” troops on its border with Ukraine, per a US defense official
— CNNNortheastDesk (@CNNNEDesk) August 22, 2014
The Pentagon demanded an end to any “unauthorized entry” into Ukraine, especially under the guise of humanitarian aid:
The presence of Russian vehicles in Ukraine is an “unauthorized entry” and the personnel and vehicles must be removed immediately, Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby told reporters Friday. No Russian personnel should enter Ukraine under the guise of a humanitarian convoy, Kirby said.
“Unauthorized entry”? That sounds like a passport issue, not moving artillery into another country to attack its military. This might be more of a reaction to the convoy rather than the NATO statement, but, er … doesn’t the Pentagon talk with NTO about these issues?
Ukraine can now say, “I told you so”:
Not that doing so will provide much comfort, of course. The declaration by NATO leadership of Russian infiltration and offensive operations in eastern Ukraine will force Western leaders to come to terms with Russian aggression in the region. The EU and US had already threatened expanded sanctions against Russia if they moved militarily in Ukraine in support of the rebels, and now the time has arrived. Ukraine won’t be able to hold out against the Russian military for long if Vladimir Putin decides to stay, so the only way to reverse this course is to make it as expensive as possible for Putin and his supporters.
Rasmussen’s accusation puts pressure on Barack Obama, too. Will he come back from his vacation for this, or will we get another brief statement before tee time?
Update: The Washington Post has picked up the news in an updated version of their earlier story on the “aid” convoy:
NATO said Friday that Russian artillery pieces are firing at the Ukrainian military from Russian territory and within Ukraine, dramatically escalating a conflict that has taken a new turn with the unauthorized entry into eastern Ukraine of what the alliance described as a “Russian so-called humanitarian convoy.”
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen condemned the entry of the convoy Friday as “a blatant breach of Russia’s international commitments” and said it could only deepen a crisis that Moscow has created and helped to fuel.
“The disregard of international humanitarian principles raises further questions about whether the true purpose of the aid convoy is to support civilians or to resupply armed separatists,” Rasmussen said in a statement issued from NATO headquarters.
Unless artillery shells are considered humanitarian aid and launching them at high speed considered humanitarian distribution, I’d say we already have the answer to that, no?
Update: The Daily Caller noticed the reluctance at the Pentagon to call this an invasion, too:
“We are very concerned by the movement of a Russian convoy across Ukraine’s border,” the rear admiral said. “We strongly condemn this action, and any actions that Russian forces take that increase tensions in the region.”
“Russia should not send vehicles, persons or cargo of any kind into Ukraine, whether under the guise of humanitarian convoys or any other pretext, without Kiev’s express permission,” Kirby warned. “This is a violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity by Russia.”
“Russia must remove its vehicles and personnel from the territory of Ukraine immediately,” he declared. “Failure to do so will result in additional costs and isolation.”
“Does the U.S. consider this an invasion?” one reporter asked.
“It’s certainly an unauthorized entry into Ukraine by this convoy,” Kirby replied, “and we are consulting, as I said, with international partners right now about next steps. I don’t have anything additional to add at this time.”
Kirby later appeared to stop himself when describing the invasion. “We’ve made our position very, very clear,” he said. “That they should not be doing this under the guise of a humanitarian convoy, to use that as an excuse, um . . . uh . . . to act . . . to cross the border in an unauthorized way.”
That ought to do it … thanks very much: