US sees 'Russia-directed' counter-offensive in Ukraine
The United States warned Wednesday that apparent incursions by Russian military units into Ukraine indicate a Moscow-orchestrated counter-offensive in rebel-contested areas.
Kremlin-aligned rebels in east Ukraine have seized territory from retreating government forces, with Kiev accusing Russia of pushing columns of its tanks and weaponry toward towns in southeastern Ukraine.
"These incursions indicate a Russian-directed counter-offensive is likely under way in Donetsk and Lugansk," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters.
"Clearly that is of deep concern to us."
Psaki also said Washington has noted "the Russian government's unwillingness to tell the truth even as its soldiers are found 30 miles (48 kilometers) inside Ukraine."
She cited reports of wounded soldiers at a hospital in St. Petersburg, and said Russia was "sending its young men into Ukraine, but are not telling them where they're going or telling their parents what they're doing."
Russia denies any direct link to the rebels but refuses to call on them to cease fire or disarm.
The US warning came as Russia denied a claim by Finland that it held secret talks with the United States in June on ways to resolve the Ukraine conflict.
Meanwhile, Psaki said Washington was maintaining at its disposal a range of tools for pressuring Moscow over the Ukraine crisis, including ratcheting up economic sanctions on Russia's economy.
Potentially inflaming tensions, Ukraine's Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk called on NATO to act to help Kiev when the alliance holds a summit in Wales next week.
Psaki said President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry will address the possible steps to be taken against Russia when they attend the summit.
© 2014 AFP