Russia has now amassed around 15,000 troops along the border with Ukraine, the U.S. ambassador to NATO said on Friday, offering a higher figure than one previously cited by the Pentagon.
U.S. ambassador to NATO Douglas Lute offered the estimate during a security forum in Colorado, saying there were “now up again over about 15,000 Russian troops amassed along the border with Ukraine.”
Meanwhile, the Pentagon said Friday that movement of Russian heavy-calibre artillery systems across the border into Ukraine is “imminent,” adding that Russia is escalating the military action there.
A Pentagon spokesman, Colonel Steve Warren, said the U.S. has seen the powerful rocket systems moving closer to the Ukraine border and they could be put into the hands of Russian-backed separatists as soon as Friday.
U.S. officials warned this week that they had new evidence that Russia intended to deliver heavier and more powerful multiple rocket launchers to the separatist forces in Ukraine. Warren told reporters that the delivery could happen at any time.
Warren also said Russia continues to fire artillery across the border into Ukraine.
“For the last several days, Russian forces using Russian artillery from Russian soil have conducted attacks against Ukrainian military positions in Ukraine,” Warren said. “This is unquestionably an escalation from a military perspective.”
He declined to say what impact the attacks have had on Ukraine’s military, but said the attacks are coming from the southern border area, near Rostov-on-Don.