The Washington Post | July 27, 2014
The Obama administration on Sunday released overhead surveillance images it said were evidence that Russia has fired artillery rounds from its side of the border against Ukrainian military units.
The grainy photographs, taken between Wednesday and Saturday, are labeled as indicating fire from multiple rocket launchers inside Russia and targets they have struck inside Ukraine.
The release came as Secretary of State John F. Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov agreed in a telephone call Sunday that “despite disagreements fighting must be stopped” and talks initiated between the warring parties in Ukraine, according to a Russian government statement reported in Moscow by the Interfax news agency. The State Department said the five-minute call included discussions of both Ukraine and Gaza.
As the ground war between Russia-backed separatist forces in eastern Ukraine and government troops has escalated this past week, charges and countercharges between Russia and the West have reached fever pitch.
A Russian Defense Ministry spokesman, Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov, charged Sunday that the United States is getting most of its intelligence data on the Russian military from social media and suggested it turn to more “trustworthy” information, the ITAR-TASS news agency reported.
Konashenkov denied recent U.S. statements that Russia, after first decreasing the number of troops it has deployed along the Ukrainian border, has now increased them to at least 15,000. Regular international inspections under the international Open Skies Treaty, he said, “have not registered any violations or undeclared military activity on the part of Russia in the areas adjacent to the Ukrainian border.”
Under the treaty, member governments regularly conduct overflights, after providing advance notice, of neighboring countries. Although such flights were common in the early days of the Ukrainian conflict, it is unclear whether any have been conducted recently. The U.S. photographs, disseminated by the State Department as “evidence of Russia firing into Ukraine,” were declassified by the U.S. Office of the Director of National Intelligence and presumably taken by U.S. surveillance assets flying overhead.
Konashenkov said that similar inspections of “Ukrainian armed forces’ active combat actions in the areas adjacent to the Russian border” would “register high concentration of Ukrainian troops, armaments and military equipment that regularly shell Russian settlements and have already killed and injured our citizens there.”
The Pentagon and State Department first accused Russian artillery of firing directly into Ukraine on Thursday. The charges were repeated Friday, although no evidence was offered.
The high-altitude images released Sunday “provide evidence that Russian forces have fired across the border at Ukrainian military forces, and that Russia-backed separatists have used heavy artillery, provided by Russia, in attacks on Ukrainian forces from inside Ukraine,” according to labels on the pictures by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
The most recent photograph, taken Saturday, shows what is described as “blast marks” from rocket launcher fire on the Russian side of the border, and “impact craters” inside Ukraine.
A photograph labeled as taken Wednesday shows a row of vehicles described as “self-propelled artillery only found in Russian military units, on the Russian side of the border, oriented in the direction of a Ukrainian military unit within Ukraine.” On the other side of the border, “the pattern of crater impacts near the Ukrainian military unit indicates strikes from artillery fired from self-propelled or towed artillery, vice multiple rocket launchers,” it said.
The Obama administration has said that direct Russian participation in Ukraine, along with its failure to use its influence on the separatists to allow international inspectors to reach the site of the July 17 Malaysian airliner crash inside separatist territory, should lead to increased sanctions against Russia.
In a statement following President Obama’s call to Netherlands Prime Minister Mark Rutte on Thursday, the White House said the two “agreed that Russia must not be permitted to destabilize the situation in Ukraine without incurring costs and that, accordingly, the international community will need to enact additional sanctions.”
The administration has said it is considering its own additional measures against Russia, while European officials are scheduled to meet this week in Brussels to discuss activating new sanctions against key Russian economic sectors.
Deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes said Sunday that the United States and Europe are likely to develop stronger sanctions this week against Russia.
“We still think that the best thing the United States can do is send a message to Russia through very strong sanctions coordinated with the Europeans, and I’d expect in the coming days you will see the Europeans move out on stronger sanctions,” Rhodes said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
Rhodes also said European leaders were open to sanctions against Russia’s energy, arms and financial sectors during talks with Obama in the past week.
Josh Hicks contributed to this report.
US releases satellite images ‘proving’ Russia is firing into Ukraine
RT | July 27, 2014
The US State Department has released satellite images via email which it says act as “evidence” that Russia is firing rockets at Ukrainian troops across the border. The images were posted on Twitter by the US ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt.
The four-page emailed document, titled ‘Evidence of Russian Shelling into Ukraine,’ contains four satellite images, all dating between July 21 and July 25/26.
Monochrome images taken by civilian satellites are said to be indicating fire from multiple rocket launchers “on the Russian side of the border” and “artillery strikes within Ukraine.”
The slides were prepared by the US Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI), and came supplied with a short description. Thus, a slide dated July 25/26 shows what US officials claim to be “ground scarring at a multiple rocket launch site on the Russian side of the border oriented in the direction of Ukrainian military units within Ukraine.”
Multiple Rocket Launcher Strikes within Ukraine (25/26 July)
The slide taken on July 23 is said to show self-propelled artillery “oriented in the direction of a Ukrainian military unit within Ukraine.” It said that “the pattern of crater impacts near the Ukrainian military unit indicates strikes from artillery” fired from self-propelled or towed artillery, vice multiple rocket launchers “only found in Russian military units, on the Russian side of the border.”
Taken on July 21, the last image is said to be illustrating a “wide area of impacts near the Ukrainian military” that “indicates fire from multiple rocket launchers.”
“The bottom impact crater inset shows impacts within a local village,” DNI claimed.
The US State Department made no official statement – to the press or on its website – linked to the email release, but directed its followers on Twitter to Pyatt’s microblog, where he uploaded “new images of evidence.”
Pyatt did share images on his Twitter account, but did not include any additional information.
Washington also said that more details would be available on the website of its embassy in Ukraine. However, at the moment of publication, there were no updates to be found on the embassy’s site or on Pyatt’s blog on the same page.
Paul Craig Roberts, columnist and head of the Institute for Political Economy, told RT that he doubts the credibility of the photographs released by the State Department.
“I can state with complete confidence that information this important would not be released in this way,” Roberts said. “If this was released by the State Department, which I doubt, it is so unprofessional; it would mean that the State Department is trying to spread propaganda about Russia on social media. Now the way this type of information would be released would be at a press conference with a high level of government officials addressing the bureau chiefs of the major news organizations.”
He added that experts would explain the meaning of the photographs and their validity.
“The US government has been desperate to produce information to back up its claims. It would not release information in this way,” he said, adding that anyone can spread information on social media.
Russia has been repeatedly criticizing the US for accusations made by the State Department without any sustainable evidence. Washington directly blamed Moscow for building up troops close to the border, as well as for the “firing of Russian heavy weapons from the Russian side of the border at Ukrainian military personnel.”
On Sunday, however, Russia’s Defense Ministry said that international inspectors who have been coming to check the state of Moscow’s troops along the Ukrainian borders have found no violations.
“It has come to our attention that new allegations by top US officials as to the alleged amassing of Russian troops along the Ukrainian border have been voiced,” the ministry said.
The ministry listed the international makeup of those inspections, which include representatives from the US, as well as NATO and Ukraine.
“No instances of violations by Russia along the Ukrainian border had been registered by the inspectors,” the ministry said. “Frequent action by the Ukrainian military taking place on the Russian border has hindered our own ability to perform similar inspections and flybys along our border,” it continued.
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