Russia Backs Ukraine Rebels and Steps Up Air Operations Over Europe

Russia has stepped up military air operations over Europe while continuing to bolster aggression by separatists in eastern Ukraine, the Pentagon said Thursday.

“There’s been an uptick to Russian air activity in the region” to include a flight by two Russian “Bear” bombers off Britain’s southern coast Wednesday, said Army Col. Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman.

Warren also said “we have continued to see a large volume of equipment flowing from Russia into Ukraine” in violation of ceasefire agreements signed last week in Minsk, the capital of Belarus.

“Russia’s actions have been destabilizing throughout the region,” Warren said, but Pentagon officials added that there were no immediate plans to change U.S. policy against supplying weapons to Ukraine despite repeated pleas from the Kiev government.

Fighting continued in eastern Ukraine Thursday a day after the rebels forced thousands of Ukrainian troops to flee the rail hub of Debaltseve in defiance of the ceasefire brokered by France and Germany, Reuters reported.

The abandonment of the town marked the worst defeat for the Kiev government in 10 months of fighting in which an estimated 5,000 people have been killed.

However, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Wednesday that “the Minsk agreement is the best opportunity for a lasting peaceful solution” even as the separatists refused to abide by it.

“Russian forces, artillery and air defense units as well as command and control elements are still active in Ukraine,” Stoltenberg said, “and there has been a steady buildup of tanks and armored vehicles across the border from Russia to Ukraine.”

In addition to the aggression against Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin also posed a “‘real and present danger” to the Baltic states of Lithuania, Lativia and Estonia, said British Defense Minister Michael Fallon.

In comments to the Times and Daily Telegraph newspapers, Fallon said said Putin could launch a campaign of undercover tactics to destabilise the three former Soviet republics who are now NATO members.

“I’m worried about his (Putin’s) pressure on the Baltics, the way he is testing NATO,” Fallon said.

Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius told BBC radio that Russia also posed a threat to the wider region, including Moldova.

“Russia is behaving aggressively now as we speak,” Linkevicius said, and the threat was not just to the Baltic states “but also with regard to others and NATO has to respond and be ready for these new threats.”

Earlier, a British Ministry of Defense spokesman said that Royal Air Force Typhoon fighters scrambled Wednesday to intercept the two Russian bombers which were flying off the southern Cornwall coast.

“The Russian planes were escorted by the RAF until they were out of the UK area of interest,” the spokesman said. “At no time did the Russian military aircraft cross into UK sovereign airspace.”

— Richard Sisk can be reached at richard.sisk@military.com

About the Author

Richard Sisk
Richard Sisk is a reporter for Military.com. He can be reached at richard.sisk@military.com.
  • donbacon

    Clear and present danger against the Baltics? Baloney. There is no evidence of that.

    • D-Man

      No just Putin’s continual aggression

      • donbacon

        What aggression?

        • Bobasa

          Listen, just because you are blind and stu+pid, doesn’t mean that Russia is not waging a war against Ukraine and Europe in general. Go move to Russia and you’ll live in a nice country where your comments are actually believed. But dare say something else and you’ll be sent to SIberia.

          • guest

            Heard of Nicaragua and US involvement, and Panama and Grenada.
            Ukraine is Russia backyard as was the Caribbean for US. Then there was Kosovo which wasnt anybodys backyard but had nato invasion anyway.

            With US Army boots in so many other countries to enforce US interests and policy, why is it so unusual for Kremlin to be pulling the strings in eastern Ukraine.
            The baltics are worried because of their discrimination against their Russian speaking citizens

          • Bobasa

            I live in Ukraine and the hell if we are Russia’s backyard! The Russian’s may think so, but we sure as hell don’t. And Ukrainians are fighting and dying to prove it. We are not little Nicaragua and Russian is not the big USA. Russia is actually very weak and certainly not a “Great Power” nevermind a Superpower. Regardless of certain setbacks like what just happened at Debaltseve, Putin’s plans in Ukraine have been ruined. You see Putin thought he could take over all of Ukraine. He was especially convinced of this after he invaded and took over Crimea without a fight. Ukraine’s military has been systematically ruined during the past 23 years. By the way, Russia played a part in this. The last 2 defence ministers and head of the SBU (formerly the KGB) in the Yanukovych government were Russians from Russia who only lived in Ukraine for about 3 years before becoming Ukrainian defence ministers. These three people passed on all of Ukraine’s defence and intelligence info to Russia. The fact that these men gained their positions shows that Yanukovych was simply a Kremlin puppet. Since Putin knew all of Ukraine’s secret’s he thought he could defeat Ukraine, but the Ukrainian people united and started forming defence battalions to defend the country and now the Ukrainian military has been reborn. Putin tried to take over Kharkiv, Odessa, Dnipropetrovsk, Kriviy Rih etc., was failed miserably. The fact that his troops only occupy one third of Donetsk and Lugansk oblasts is pathetic and politically useless.
            As for the Baltics “discrimination against their Russian speaking citizens”. The only Russians that were not given automatic citizenship after independence are those that can not trace their roots to Latvia and Estonia (Lithuania didn’t adopt such a law and has few Russians) before the Soviet occupation and, of this group, those who have not learned the local language. But it’s interesting that these Russians don’t just move back to Russia? Why not? Because they know that their lives are MUCH better in Estonia and Latvia than they ever would be in Russia. Besides, there is only one country in the world that tramples upon the rights and freedoms of Russians on a daily basis. Only one country denies them the right to freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, democratic elections, freedom from oppression, etc.,etc.,; and that country is RUSSIA.

          • jossie lawless

            hmmm…. if Russia is so weak why the uke army with blackwater mercs getting their a$$es handed to them?

          • CaptainObvious

            Blackwater came back to life to fight the Russians?

          • notmyname

            Could have something to do with Bill Clinton signing the Budapest Memorandum, telling them that they didn’t need to worry about defense and we would protect the Ukraine in exchange for their nuclear weapons. This was re-iterated by President Obama in 2009.

        • Canuck

          Are you russian?

    • Pharsalus

      Well… The Baltics are a buffer between Europe (Germany!) and Russia. They have been since Nevski beat the Templars. There’s *always* pressure! (from both sides.)

      • guest

        Not only Russia or Germany, there were the Swedes as well.

        In 1917 when the Germans won the war in the East, they turned the baltics into german colonies with imported german princes.

  • George

    These so called nations IE Ukraine Georgia ect. Where all part of Russia for over a century. This is the case of USA and Europe sticking there noises in crap where not to support to be involved in. Quit expanding NATO. NATO is crap and is mainly used to drive military sales up. Face it, NATO is using Ukraine to pock Russia eye all the time. Russia’s had enough. We did more to restart the cold war then they did.

    • Nadnerbus

      I guess you don’t believe in national self determination then. Believe it or not, a lot of those countries that had been swallowed by the Soviet Union did not desire to be part of that body politic. When given the chance after the fall of the Berlin Wall, they chose their own independence. It should concern anybody that believes in sovereignty that Russia seemingly does not.

      If the US invaded Mexico, claiming that it was to protect American expats from some Mexican peril, and then proceeded to annex or install a friendly government in part of it, would you support that too?

      • oblatt22

        >I guess you don’t believe in national self determination then.

        What you mean for Eastern Ukrainians or Pashtuns or Sunnis LOL.

        • Brian B. Mulholland

          It’s anybody’s guess what a majority vote in Eastern Ukraine would show. There was no armed succession movement there until Putin took issue with the expressed desire of the majority of Ukrainians to move closer to the
          West, values and free enterprise and some rule of law all included; these things are anathema to Putin’s philosophy of governance. And the idea that he feels threatened by NATO is either fraudulent or a comment on his paranoia. Geographic expansion has been accompanied by progressive levels of disarmament. Germany has gone from 3,000 tanks to a few hundred within the past few years, the UK has sent new ships to sea without AA missiles with which to defend themselves, and until the past month or so France was ready to ship amphibious warfare vessels to Russia that have no real purpose save Baltic littoral warfare.

          Lenin described imperial Russia as a “prison house of nations.” Putin wants the prisoners back in their Russian cells.

  • Lance

    More bullcrap from NATO

  • Dan

    What fighter is next to the bear?

    • Jack

      F-22 Raptor

      • Dan

        Thats what I thought but for a second I thought it was Russian.

        • oblatt22

          One of them is an operational combat aircraft the other is the F-22

          • jossie lawless

            good photo op

    • Will

      Tail Badge AK. 3rd Wing, 11th Air Force, JB Elmendorf Richardson, Alaska, USA.

  • max

    Is US government just sit tide and do nothing. Talk more but less action.

  • Pharsalus

    The problem is, Russia is just way too close to “our” global military bases. They keep bothering NATO that moves ever closer to “their” Rodina.

    NATO is now nothing more than a common standards organisation like ISO; making sure all rifles are, say, 5,56mm.

    Every country has, since Westphalia, the right to decide their own future, good or bad. The US and NATO, however, seem to think they are the only White Knights in Shining Armour and everyone has to do what they feel best. A bit like Steve Jobs, really.

    Those Bears never entered anyone’s national airspace. They had the right to be there. We’ve been escorting those flights for ages now. This is nothing new.

    It’s just Blaming the Others for Everything.

    • Nadnerbus

      The former eastern block nations that have joined NATO did so because they were exercising THEIR right to decide their own future. Russia can choose to see that as some sort of aggressive military expansion towards the mother country, but any sane person knows that it is not. It is a reaction to the historical oppression Russia has exerted over them.

      The bomber flights in international airspace are old news, and have been part of the game for a long time. The fact that attention is being called to them here and in other places by the Pentagon and others probably says more about the motives of the Pentagon than the Russians. Reason for more funding? Casus belli? I dunno.

      • oblatt22

        When did we start caring about THEIR right to decide their own future. LOL

    • Pharsalus

      Example from Strategypage.com: “Despite the budget pressures and combat losses caused by the *** Russian invasion of eastern Ukraine *** the Ukrainian Air Force continues to overhaul, refurbish, repaint and return to service more of its 80 Cold War era MiG-29 fighters….”

      >> There is no state of war between Ukraine and Russia. Therefore this is no invasion. Russia may send volunteers, weapons, anything (so do we) but as long as there is no war, there’s no invasion.

      This is just a bit of official flame war, incitement to riot. Russia may help the separatists but they’re allowed to when asked for it, just like we help Euro-Ukraine.

      • http://gruntsandco.com/ majr0d

        LOL yeah, the “little green men” aren’t Russian troops. The Russian paratroopers captured by the Ukrainians were really just “lost”. The Russian tanks crossing the border were “humanitarian aid”. The SAM’s that shot down the airline were “captured” by the rebels and only coincidentally manned by Russian troops that pulled back into Russia after the shoot down,.

        And of course sending medical gear, blankets and food to the Ukrainians is equal to the Russian support.

        Let me borrow your hat. I’m feeling sick.

        It’s like saying the Battle of Pharsalus was a step towards democracy as Caesar decisively defeated his only opponents.

        • propagandon-buster

          >LOL yeah, the “little green men” aren’t Russian troops

          Russia had a legally dislocated troops in Crimea (surprise!).

          >The Russian paratroopers captured by the Ukrainians were really just “lost”

          The one lost group of Russian paratroopers after almost one year of civilian war in UA. It’s doesn’t conforms to a claims of ukrainian propaganda about a whole Russia’s regular army fighting in UA. Where is Russian POWs, where is killed Russian soldiers, officers?
          Why mr. Poroshenko waved Russian civilian passports to “prove the aggression of regular Russian army” ?

          “he SAM’s that shot down the airline were “captured” by the rebels and only coincidentally manned by Russian troops that pulled back into Russia after the shoot down,.”

          There is no single evidence, but only cheap talks in media. The SAM version had not been proved yet.

          • http://gruntsandco.com/ majr0d

            “Legally dislocated?” Wow, is that what you call Spetsnaz and Russian troops climbing out of aircraft and helicopters originating from Russia.

            A lost squad is explainable because of fighting across an international border? Yeah sure, US squads turn up all the time in Iraq.

            The SAM “version” hasn’t been proven? I guess you think it was Gremlins.

            You ought to change your screen name to RT because propaganda-buster is far from appropriate.

  • Brian B. Mulholland

    Your ability to insist that the cart is pushing the horse is a thing of wonder.

  • BlackOwl18E

    Putin is still pissed off at the west over Libya. He signed off on the UN resolution to allow for a No Fly Zone that NATO quickly turned into a regime change mission. Russia lost billions of dollars worth of arms deals with Qaddafi and that’s why he was so staunch with us over Syria and now Ukraine. He feels like we lied to him and screwed him over with Libya so he doesn’t trust us.

    If the west was serious about repairing relations with Russia they would stop talking about expanding NATO eastward.

    What really has me pissed off about all of this is that the US is imposing sanctions on Russia over Ukraine that are causing all sorts of damage to the global economy, but Ukraine is not even remotely related to our national interests or national security.

    • Dylan

      I agree with a lot of your other comments on this site, but not this one. In 1997, Ukraine turned over their nuclear weapons in exchange for protection against exactly the sort of thing that is happening right now:
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Budapest_Memorandum_…

      I see it as a total failure of the US and NATO to hold up their end of this agreement, and I think it tarnishes our word in the eyes of the free world. Ask any Ukrainian about what they would do if they could go back in time to 1997, and they’d choose to defend themselves instead of handing over their weapons and trusting in NATO to do that for them. Sanctions should be the least of our actions. If Russia wants to spread its influence through subversion and thinly veiled aggression, there should be economical consequences for such from the nations of this world.

      • BlackOwl18E

        Look, Ukraine is in Russia’s backyard the same way Cuba is in our backyard. When Russia interfered with Cuba we almost turned the world inside out. The country Ukraine itself has no threat to us or any strategic value to us other than a thorn in Russia’s side. I see no point to continuing to damage the global economy over it.

        And the fact here is that the west is ultimately responsible for ruining the relationship with Russia over the 2011 Libya War. We haven’t given the Russians any reason to trust what we say and because of this they aren’t even giving us the chance to negotiate.

        I don’t agree with what the Russians are doing and I do find the counter argument of my point of view understandable.

    • bagart

      Blackowl- Russia is viper of the nation. Nobody wish to go into game of kisses with always bankrupt and therefore always angry Russia- it is there to serve petrol to more advanced western democracies. If you are so pissed with this meager support for Ukraine there is only one way to end yours suffering- change wardrobe and stop isolationist whining.

    • chuckiechan

      It depends. If you believe that freedom and democracy are in the long range economic and security interests of the USA, then yes. We have a right to challenge those to are against these ideals.

      Communist countries are composed of people suffering under the corruption of failed communist ideas.

      “To be Russian, is to be proud to suffer”

      Putin and his cronies don’t suffer except when their bank accounts shrink.

      • BlackOwl18E

        Russia is not a Communist country anymore and Cuba still is. Think about that.

        Ideals are important, but playing the game smart is even more important.

        • crackedlenses

          “Russia is not a Communist country anymore”

          Nope, just run by ex-KGB. Not much of a difference at that point.

  • jack

    Meanwhile Obama is teeing off at Andrews AFB golf course again…..

    • guest

      Really? Is he not allowed R&R.
      Eisenhower was a regular on golf course once the Allies landed at Normandy. With his responsibilities it was essential.
      These comments are a bit rich from those who would struggle organizing their family road trip interstate.

      • navy259

        Jack don’t know jack.

      • http://gruntsandco.com/ majr0d

        Eisenhower was not complimented for his golf forays while troops were dying. He also took flack for playing so much golf as President later.

        It’s a valid criticism.

  • Charles

    And while all 16 US National Intelligence Agencies were going nuts due to the huge amount of noise regarding pending terrorist attacks on the US homeland, then-POTUS George W Bush went on vacation to scenic Crawford, TX.

    That same POTUS’s aides complained constantly about the former POTUS’s work ethic, because he has the shortest working day of any chief executive; refused to read even the one-page summaries of 40-page reports prepared by his department heads, and spent more time on vacation (by far) than any POTUS in American history.

    The results of a poor work ethic were clear: simply compare the state of the union inherited by George W Bush - and compare that to the state of the union inherited by Barak Obama (who’s aides, BTW, do not complain about his work ethic).

    • crackedlenses

      “(who’s aides, BTW, do not complain about his work ethic).”

      They probably took note of what happened to the last set of whistleblowers. In other news, the training and overall morale of the Secret Service has gone down the tubes….

  • PolicyWonk

    If the USA were giong to support sending arms to the Ukraine, we should be doing it through third parties - and seeing to it that they only received Russian weapons that cannot be traced back to the USA.

    Personally - I like the idea of Russians being killed by their own weapons.

    • Maus

      HAHA! Hi5

  • DoWe Know

    I must be confused.

    Why would we want to fly the premier US stealth fighter so close to a Russian A/C that could be loaded with Sigint monitoring/recording equipment to help paint a extremely detail look at the F-22?
    Or has the F-22 already been completely pawned by Russia that we just don’t care?
    Couldn’t a F-16 baby sit this from several miles away just as effectively? We know they are not going to cross into anyone’s sovereign air space, so what is the big deal, just like the air operations we do around their country?

    • Dylan

      I believe most F-22’s doing these intercepts are still fitted with luneberg lenses to artificially inflate their radar signature and counter exactly what you’re worried about.

  • CHOPS

    How far do you think Putin would push this if we had a strong President instead of a community organizer ?

    • guest

      Or a Rangers baseball team owner ?

      • miles

        You forgot draft dodger/reservists nat-guard who could barely operate his obsolete jet

        • oblatt22

          You mean the guy who said he had a unique understanding with Putin because he could see his soul, but made most of his policy decisions by just guessing.

          We probably would have surrendered Florida by now.

      • blight_

        Putin would invade Georgia with a strong baseball team owner in the White House.

        • http://gruntsandco.com/ majr0d

          They also pulled back to the lines occupied before the invasion…

          BTW, Biden also has five deferments…

    • Maus

      We need more tea parties! Now lift your pinky.
      Obama will do something about it after he is done taking selfies.

      • jossie lawless

        not to worry… Hillary what does it matter now Clinton will be in charge soon.

  • Franklin

    I flushed twice while reading these posts. The Russian infiltration and invasion of the Ukraine is pretty sad. The World has much bigger problems and all the resources that are wasted will be sorely missed in the future. The Chinese really don’t need to build up their military. They will be able to walk in and take over what’s left. Except for the glowing parts.

  • William_C1

    To all those saying how Ukraine is Russia’s backyard and so the Russians have a right to do this, what happens when Ukraine is theirs and Poland is now their backyard?

    This may not be America’s fight but we have every reason to punish Russia with economic sanctions. I’d argue we should be trying to train Ukrainian officers so they can better employ their military assets. There is a lot of individual courage but there also is a lot disorganization and confusion as well.

    • PanicNow

      Oh!oH The USA is in Mexico and Canada’s backyard.

      • http://gruntsandco.com/ majr0d

        Actually we are in Mexico and Canada’s back yards. Sit on the border and watch the invasion…

        Mostly from the south but the north is also an issue.