US: Russia firing artillery across Ukraine border

The United States said on Thursday that Russia was firing artillery across the border into Ukraine targeting Ukrainian military positions engaged in fighting pro-Russian separatists.

“We have new evidence that the Russians intend to deliver heavier and more powerful multiple rocket launchers to the separatist forces in Ukraine, and have evidence that Russia is firing artillery from within Russia to attack Ukrainian military positions,” State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said.

Harf, speaking at a regular media briefing, said the information was based on intelligence reports but did not elaborate.

Russia has in the past denied that it is involved in the separatist rebellion in eastern Ukraine. The United States and its European allies accuse Moscow of fomenting the unrest in Ukraine by training and arming rebels.

Ukraine PM quits

Ukraine’s Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk has announced he is resigning, amid the break-up of the country’s ruling coalition in parliament.

Yatsenyuk made the announcement Thursday, hours after two major political parties in the ruling coalition pulled out. Usually mild-mannered and even-keeled, he expressed frustration over parliament’s failure to pass crucial energy legislation and increase army financing as the county battles pro-Russia separatists in its east and tries to deal with the aftermath of a plane downing that killed 298 people.

Referring to protests that ousted the previous government under president Viktor Yanukovych, he said Ukraine’s politicians risk losing the hearts and minds of the thousands who protested for months in the Maidan (Kyiv’s central square) choosing a European course over continued subservience to Moscow.

But Yatsenyuk, a central figure in talks with the European Union and the United States, will not be able to leave office immediately as he is expected to continue in his duties until a new prime minister and government are installed, observers say.


(State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf is seen at a daily briefing at the State Department in Washington, DC)