In an interview with VOA, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Michael Carpenter, whose responsibilities include Ukraine, Russia and Eurasia, said the U.S. has seen a "considerable" uptick in fighting in eastern Ukraine, Censor.NET reports.
According to him, despite last year's cease-fire agreement, Ukraine's armed forces have suffered at least 430 casualties while fighting separatists there.
"Russia maintains command-and-control links over the separatists that it backs over in eastern Ukraine," Carpenter told VOA.
Russia is pouring heavy weapons into Ukraine's eastern Donbas region, while training and controlling separatists there with "a force presence inside eastern Ukraine."
"This is a Russia-fostered problem," Carpenter said.
Russian-backed separatists have carried out hundreds of attacks in eastern Ukraine in the last week.
Speaking to the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday, General Philip Breedlove, the head of the U.S. European Command, said there had been 71 attacks in the previous 24 hours and about 450 attacks in the seven days prior to that.
Breedlove, who is also NATO's top military commander, told reporters at the Pentagon that "disturbing trends" had formed, noting attacks in places that had previously been quiet and weapons being used that were supposed to have been banned.
Despite these trends, and recommendations from Breedlove that include providing lethal weapons to Ukrainian forces, the Obama administration has not yet included lethal aid in its supplies to Ukraine.
"We have calculated from the beginning that the solution to the conflict in the Donbas is not on the battlefield, but is precisely through diplomatic and economic, meaning sanctions pressure," Carpenter told VOA.
Speaking at the Senate hearing Tuesday, Republican Senator Kelly Ayotte slammed the administration for not providing lethal aid.
"There's a real urgency here. We've got an issue with Russia," Ayotte said. "This committee over a year ago, as a whole on a bipartisan basis, said, 'Let's provide lethal support so that Ukrainians can defend themselves, and it hasn't happened."
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