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NATO Warns Of Russian Movements In Eastern Ukraine


Russian military trucks have been hauling combat troops and equipment into eastern Ukraine. The American general who commands NATO made that charge today. General Philip Breedlove noted the Russians are sending in the forces despite a cease-fire deal two months ago. NPR's David Welna reports.

DAVID WELNA, BYLINE: General Breedlove said today that Russia's international border with Ukraine has become, in his words, completely porous and wide open. Over the past two days Breedlove said NATO has observed columns of Russian tanks, artillery, air defense systems and combat troops moving across that border. Pro-Russian separatists have been occupying parts of eastern Ukraine for months.

Breedlove said it's a patchwork; there are gaps between areas the separatists control. Breedlove suggests that the Russian troops may be trying to fill those gaps.

GENERAL PHILIP BREEDLOVE: My biggest concern right now is that this force, this capability that is being moved into eastern Ukraine will be used to more consolidate the edges of this area in order to make it a more contiguous, more easy to control and employ region.

WELNA: Breedlove also accused Russia of shipping ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear war heads to Crimea. Russia's response was vintage Cold War rhetoric - blasts of hot air is how a defense ministry spokesman in Moscow labeled the NATO commander's descriptions of a renewed Russian incursion into Ukraine. At a U.N. Security Council meeting today on the Ukraine crisis, American ambassador Samantha Power accused Russia of talking peace but fueling war. She said Russia has systematically sought to undermine a late-summer cease-fire deal that was signed in the city of Minsk.

SAMANTHA POWER: What we can do, what we must do is keep ratcheting up the pressure on Russia until it abides by Minsk and chooses the path of de-escalation. Russia's actions in Ukraine are not only a threat to the countries in Russia's immediate vicinity, but also to international order.

WELNA: Powers said the U.S. is ready to roll back sanctions against Russia, but only once the fighting in Ukraine has stopped, the border is closed, hostages are released and foreign forces and equipment are withdrawn. Meanwhile in Moscow, Russia's defense minister announced his nation is resuming long-range bomber patrol flights over the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico not seen since the final days of the Cold War.

David Welna, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

David Welna is NPR's national security correspondent.