US intel chief sees spring attack on Ukraine port
Pro-Russian forces in eastern Ukraine will likely wait until the spring to attack the port of Mariupol, US intelligence chief James Clapper predicted Thursday, adding such a move did not seem imminent.
Clapper said Russian President Vladimir Putin's aim was to establish a land bridge to Crimea, which was annexed by Moscow a year ago after the fall of a pro-Moscow leader in Kiev.
"It is not our assessment that he (Putin) is bent on capturing or conquering all of Ukraine. He wants a whole entity composed of the two oblasts (regions) in eastern Ukraine which would include a land bridge to Crimea and perhaps a port in specifically Mariupol," Clapper told the Senate Armed Services Committee.
"We do not believe that an attack on Mariupol is imminent. I believe they will wait until the spring before they attack," he said.
Since a ceasefire brokered by European leaders went into effect on February 15, rebels have captured the key railhub of Debaltseve and were reported to be massing forces around Mariupol.
© 2015 AFP