Pentagon: Russia giving separatists in Ukraine missile launchers

The Pentagon said Friday that Russia is delivering heavier and more sophisticated missile launcher systems to separatists in Ukraine.

“We have indications that the Russians intend to supply heavier, and more sophisticated multiple launch rocket systems in the very near future,” said Pentagon spokesman Army Col. Steve Warren. 

“I don't have a timeline for you, but we do believe it's imminent ... potentially today,” he said. “We believe that they're able to transfer this equipment at any moment.”

The Obama administration has criticized Russia for supplying weapons and training to separatists, who it says were responsible for shooting down a Malaysia Airlines jetliner last week, killing all 298 people on board.

Russia and the insurgents in Ukraine have denied shooting down the plane despite mounting intelligence from the United States and other western countries.

The Obama administration has already imposed sanctions on Russia for its involvement in Ukraine, and it is pressing Europe to agree to tougher economic penalties.

Pentagon officials on Friday also accused Russia of conducting attacks on Ukrainian positions from within Russia.

Warren said the artillery fire is coming from where about 12,000 Russian forces are built up along the southeastern border of Ukraine. 

“This is unquestionably an escalation from a military perspective, and flies in the face of everything the Russians have said up until now to help contribute to de-escalation,” Warren said. 

Warren said although the shelling had been going on for several days, the intelligence community decided to declassify the information Thursday.