Pro-Russian separatists likely used weapons supplied by Moscow to shoot down Ukrainian aircraft in recent weeks, NATO's top commander General Philip Breedlove said Monday.Gen. Breedlove was discussing the "program reductions that" the Obama administration had planned for Europe.
Russia was maintaining a large troop presence near Ukraine's border and had provided anti-aircraft weapons and other hardware to the rebels, Breedlove told a Pentagon news conference.
"What we see in training on the east side of the (Ukrainian) border, is big equipment, APCs (armored personnel carriers), anti-aircraft capability . . .and now we see those capabilities being used on the west side of the border," the general said.
A Ukrainian military cargo plane was shot down on June 14, killing 49 people on board, and a Ukrainian helicopter was downed last week, leaving nine troops dead.
Breedlove said the Russian military had more than seven battalion-sized task groups and "numerous" special operations forces deployed near the border.
"That's not a helpful development," he said...
Breedlove, the supreme allied commander of NATO, said the crisis illustrated the need to avoid any further cuts to US forces in Europe.
"As far as force structure, I don't think we can take any more reductions," he said.
"We should now pause and determine, should we continue with any of the program reductions that are in the plan for Europe?..." Breedlove said. "As far as force structure, I do not think we can take any more reductions."