The number of tanks in rebel-held eastern Ukraine has increased 20 times in two years, while the number of armored fighting vehicles has spiked more than tenfold, Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister on Euro-Atlantic Integration, Ivanna Klympush-Tsintsadze, announced on Friday.
Russia has denied providing the militants in the two predominantly Russian-speaking regions with reinforcements or arms, despite accusations from the U.N. and NATO allies. Instead the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has claimed the arms used by militants are Ukrainian or Soviet arms that were deployed in Ukraine before fighting began.
Comparing figures for capabilities in the region near the start of hostilities in July 2014 with their estimated strength in August 2016, she accused Russia of “pumping resources into killing Ukrainians who want to live in freedom.”
According to the data from Ukraine’s General Staff, the number of tanks in the rebel-held territories has increased from 30 to 600 in just over two years, the number of armored fighting vehicles has increased from 124 to 1260, and the number of artillery and missile systems has increased from 110 to 1060.
When asked in 2014 where separatists on the Russian-Ukrainian border are amassing enough military kit to hold off Ukraine’s armed forces, Russian President Vladimir Putin told German channel ARD “in the modern world, people fighting for a cause that they think is just, will find arms somehow.”
Armored columns moving from the eastern parts of Ukraine’s rebel-held areas, towards the contact line have been spotted numerous times, most recently in Luhansk, last May. International monitors from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe have repeatedly complained of being prevented from observing the rebel-held segment of Ukraine’s border with Russia.