During the U.S. State Department’s press briefing, deputy spokesperson Marie Harf dismissed earlier reports that insurgent-piloted tanks in the Donetsk region were of Ukrainian military origin. Rather, she elaborated that intelligence has provided convincing evidence that Donetsk militants acquired heavy weapons and military equipment from Russia, including Russian tanks.
“They were somehow pulled out of the Russian warehouses, someone taught them how to use them, and they were sent from Russia to Ukraine,” Harf flatly explained.
Militants had thus far admitted they acquired the units “from a military warehouse” but without elaborating further. Unlike past acquisitions of weaponized vehicles which have been readily shown off to news agencies and crowds alike, these militants instead shied away from any bravado, anxiously warning Reuters journalists against capturing any photography of the acquired tanks.
Provided are relevant sections of the transcript:
MS. HARF: In the last three days, a convoy of three T-64 tanks, several BM-21 or Grad multiple rocket launchers, and other military vehicles crossed from Russia into Ukraine near the Ukrainian town of Snizhne. This is unacceptable. Poroshenko protested this action yesterday with President Putin, and Secretary Kerry raised our concerns with Foreign Minister Lavrov on Wednesday as well.
Ukrainian and Russian negotiators will be meeting again this weekend in Kyiv to discuss the peace plan’s implementation. We call on Russia to use this opportunity to demonstrate its commitment to peace, to stop weapons and fighters from crossing into Ukraine, and to cooperate with Ukraine in the peace plan’s implementation. A failure by Russia to de-escalate the situation will lead to additional costs.
QUESTION: Can we go back to Ukraine? There were reports yesterday that on these three tanks that you were talking about, which you said was an escalation. There were reports that these in fact were Ukrainian tanks that had been kind of ripped off by the separatists.
MS. HARF: Nope.
QUESTION: You have convincing evidence —
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: — or whatever, that they were —
MS. HARF: They have acquired heavy weapons and military equipment from Russia, including Russian tanks. Yes.
QUESTION: Well – but these three tanks were driven across the border —
MS. HARF: Yes, yes.
QUESTION: — from – okay.
MS. HARF: They were somehow pulled out of the Russian warehouses, someone taught them how to use them, and they were sent from Russia to Ukraine.
QUESTION: So you don’t buy the stolen from the Ukrainians ?
MS. HARF: Nope, not at all.
QUESTION: Definitely Russian tanks? Okay.
MS. HARF: Yeah.