US says Russia still deploying heavy arms in Ukraine
The United States charged Friday that Russia was continuing to deploy heavy weapons in eastern Ukraine, before a ceasefire agreed this week goes into effect.
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the United States had received reports of heavy weapons being moved into eastern Ukraine from Russia over the past few days, and more apparently on the way.
“This is clearly not in the spirit of this week’s agreement,” Psaki told reporters.
She said the Russian military had deployed large amounts of artillery and multiple rocket launcher systems and was using it to shell Ukrainian positions.
“We are confident that these are Russian military, not separatist systems,” she said, adding that Russian troops along the border were preparing a large shipment of supplies to pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine.
At least 27 civilians and soldiers were reported to have been killed in the surge of fighting since the leaders of Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany agreed Thursday on a ceasefire that is to go into effect on Sunday.
The fragile agreement was seen as the best hope of ending the conflict, which has killed at least 5,480 people and ratcheted East-West tensions to highs not seen since the Cold War, but skepticism remains high after the collapse of a similar previous peace plan.
“All parties must show complete restraint in the run up to the Sunday cease-fire, including an immediate halt to the Russian and separatist assault on the Debaltseve and other Ukrainian towns,” Psaki said.