Saturday, July 19, 2014

Separatists said to have received antiaircraft training in Russia

By Craig Whitlock — July 18 at 2:01 PM, WashPost

The United States has gathered a significant body of evidence that Ukrainian separatists have been trained on Russian territory in recent weeks to fire antiaircraft missiles, according to American military and intelligence officials who have raised alarms over the reports.

Among other weapons, U.S. officials said, the separatists have been trained in using mobile antiaircraft batteries — missile systems that could be moved around on vehicles and are thought to have been used in the downing of a Malaysia Airlines jet Thursday.

Although U.S. officials on Friday stopped short of assigning direct blame for the shooting down of the jet, President Obama said “evidence indicates that the plane was shot down by a surface-to-air missile” launched from rebel-held territory in Ukraine. He said the separatists lacked the ability to shoot down large planes “without sophisticated equipment and sophisticated training, and that is coming from Russia.”

The Ukrainian rebels are known to have been armed with shoulder-fired missiles that can be used against helicopters and other aircraft operating closer to the ground. But U.S. officials have worried that the more powerful, radar-guided missiles could give the separatists a new level of firepower.

Air Force Gen. Philip M. Breedlove, the U.S. commander of NATO forces in Europe, said late last month that there was clear evidence that Ukrainian rebels were being trained on Russian territory on how to operate “vehicle-borne” antiaircraft batteries.

(More here.)

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