The United States on Friday accused Russia of sending tanks and rocket launchers to pro-Moscow rebels in Ukraine.
"We assess that separatists in eastern Ukraine have acquired heavy weapons and military equipment from Russia, including Russian tanks and multiple rocket launchers," State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf said in a statement.
The United States had "information that Russia has accumulated tanks of a type no longer used by Russian forces at a deployment site in southwest Russia, and some of these tanks recently departed."
Ukraine alleged Thursday that three tanks had crossed from Russia into its territory, underscoring the growing tensions between Kiev and Moscow.
Ukraine's new President Petro Poroshenko told his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin that the reported crossing of three tanks into his country's separatist east was "unacceptable."
Moscow has denied the allegation, earlier raised by Ukraine's Interior Minister Arsen Avakov, who stopped short of accusing Russia of being behind the reported incursion.
"Russia will claim these tanks were taken from Ukrainian forces, but no Ukrainian tank units have been operating in that area," Harf said in a statement.
"We are confident that these tanks came from Russia."
Earlier, she told reporters that a convoy of "three T-64 tanks, several BM-21 or Grad multiple rocket launchers and other military vehicles" had "crossed from Russia into Ukraine."
Internet videos had shown the same types of the tanks moving through multiple cities in eastern Ukraine, including Snizhne, Torez, and Makiyivka, Harf said.
The same type of rocket launchers was seen traveling through Lugansk.
Russia alleged that two Ukrainian tanks crossed the border into its territory before being intercepted by the border patrol.
by Jérôme CARTILLIER © 2014 AFP
Date: Jun 13, 2014