US commander: Russia seems set for new offensive in Ukraine

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EU, Ukraine Leaders Meet as Shelling Worsens, One Ukrainian Soldier Killed


WASHINGTON (AP) - The top U.S. commander for NATO said Thursday that America needs better intelligence on the ground in Ukraine, but that it appears Russian forces have used a recent lull in fighting to reposition for another offensive.

Gen. Philip Breedlove, commander of NATO forces in Europe, told the Senate Armed Services Committee, that the situation in Ukraine is volatile and fragile and urged Congress to bolster U.S. intelligence capabilities to better understand President Vladimir Putin's intent in the region.

"Russian military operations over the past year in Ukraine, and the region more broadly, have underscored that there are critical gaps in our collection and analysis," Breedlove said. "Some Russian military exercises have caught us by surprise and our textured feel for Russian involvement on the ground in Ukraine has been quite limited."

He said the number of Russia intelligence experts has dwindled since the Cold War and intelligence assets of all kind have been shifted to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"We cannot be fully certain what Russia will do next and we cannot fully grasp Putin's intent. What we can do is learn from his actions," Breedlove said. "What we do see suggests growing Russian capabilities, significant military modernization and an ambitious strategic intent."

"Russian forces used the opportunities presented by the recent lull in fighting to reset and reposition while protecting their gains," he said. "Many of their actions are consistent with preparations for another offensive."

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US commander: Russia seems set for new offensive in Ukraine
Russian-backed separatists wait for their transport, preparing to leave towards the frontline, in the village of Vergulivka, just outside Debaltseve, eastern Ukraine, on Friday, Feb. 13, 2015. Fierce fighting surged Friday in eastern Ukraine as Russian-backed separatists mounted a major, sustained offensive to capture a strategic railway hub ahead of a weekend cease-fire deadline. At least 25 people were killed across the region, officials reported. (AP Photo/Maximilian Clarke)
A Pro-Russian separatist fighter mans a checkpoint near the airport of Donetsk on Febuary 7, 2015. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov voiced optimism that a plan being worked on by Moscow, Berlin and Paris could bring an end to the Ukraine conflict. AFP PHOTO / DOMINIQUE FAGET (Photo credit should read DOMINIQUE FAGET/AFP/Getty Images)
DONETSK, UKRAINE - FEBRUARY 24: Pro-Russian separatist stands near the road while pro-Russian separatists withdraw military vehicles from the front line at Donetsk Airport on February 24, 2015 in Donetsk, Ukraine. Since 9 A.M. on Tuesday DNR has already taken away 96 units of barreled artillery, jet and self-propelled artillery. (Photo by Dmitry Korotayev/Kommersant Photo via Getty Images).
DONETSK, UKRAINE - FEBRUARY 24: Pro-Russian separatists withdraw military vehicles from the front line at Donetsk Airport on February 24, 2015 in Donetsk, Ukraine. Since 9 A.M. on Tuesday DNR has already taken away 96 units of barreled artillery, jet and self-propelled artillery. (Photo by Dmitry Korotayev/Kommersant Photo via Getty Images).
A pro-Russian separatist fighter stands guard at Donetsk's Sergey Prokofiev international airport, as shelling continues between Ukrainian army forces and pro-Russian separatist fighters on February 7, 2015. Five civilians and five soldiers were killed in fighting in east Ukraine, government and rebel officials said on February 7, with Kiev accusing pro-Russian separatists of massing forces for fresh offensives. AFP PHOTO / DOMINIQUE FAGET (Photo credit should read DOMINIQUE FAGET/AFP/Getty Images)
A Pro-Russian separatist fighter stands guard at a checkpoint near the airport of Donetsk on Febuary 7, 2015. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Saturday voiced optimism that a plan being worked on by Moscow, Berlin and Paris could bring an end to the Ukraine conflict.AFP PHOTO / DOMINIQUE FAGET (Photo credit should read DOMINIQUE FAGET/AFP/Getty Images)
FILE In this file photo taken on Tuesday, Oct. 14, 2014, Pro-Russian rebels fire artillery toward Ukrainian position at Donetsk Sergey Prokofiev International Airport outskirts the city of Donetsk, eastern Ukraine. Russia has denied it is sending arms and troops to support the separatists in Ukraine, but dozens of soldiers have been reported killed during drills in the Rostov region of southern Russia, but rights groups have actually attributed the deaths to the conflict over the border in Ukraine. (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky, file)
FILE - In this Thursday Oct. 9, 2014, file photo, Pro-Russian rebels carry boxes of munitions at their position near to the airport in the town of Donetsk, eastern Ukraine. Russia has denied it is sending arms and troops to support the separatists in Ukraine, but dozens of soldiers have been reported killed during drills in the Rostov region of southern Russia, but rights groups have actually attributed the deaths to the conflict over the border in Ukraine. (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky, file)
Ukrainian government soldiers sit on top of their armored vehicle driving on a road stretching away from the town of Artemivsk, Ukraine, towards Debaltseve, Tuesday, Feb. 17, 2015. Ukrainian government troops and Russia-backed rebels failed Tuesday to start pulling back heavy weaponry from the front line in eastern Ukraine as a deadline passed to do so. Under a cease-fire agreement negotiated by the leaders of Ukraine, Russia, Germany and France last week, the warring sides were to begin withdrawing heavy weapons from the front line on Tuesday. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)
Ukrainian artillery is at a position outside of the village of Luhanske, some 20 kilometers (14 miles) north of Debaltseve, Ukraine, Tuesday, Feb. 17, 2015. Ukrainian government troops and Russia-backed rebels failed Tuesday to start pulling back heavy weaponry from the front line in eastern Ukraine as a deadline passed to do so. Under a cease-fire agreement negotiated by the leaders of Ukraine, Russia, Germany and France last week, the warring sides were to begin withdrawing heavy weapons from the front line on Tuesday. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)
An Ukrainian soldier strikes a V-Victory sign driving on his vehicle on the road between the towns of Debaltseve and Artemivsk, Ukraine, Monday, Feb. 16, 2015. The Ukrainian government and Russia-backed rebels accused each other Monday of violating a cease-fire in eastern Ukraine, a day before the parties are due to start withdrawing heavy weaponry under a recently brokered deal. The cease-fire, which went into effect on Sunday, had raised cautious hopes for an end to the 10-month-old conflict, which has already claimed more than 5,300 lives. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)
Russian servicemen, members of trilateral groups of observers, walk along a street in Soledar, Donetsk region, on February 17, 2015. The European Union on February 17, 2015 called for the immediate pull-back of heavy weapons from the frontline in eastern Ukraine and voiced concern about the surge in fighting in a key flashpoint town of Debaltseve. AFP PHOTO / ANATOLII STEPANOV (Photo credit should read ANATOLII STEPANOV/AFP/Getty Images)
A Ukrainian serviceman stands on top of a KRAZ armoured vehicle close to a car of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in Soledar, Donetsk region, on February 17, 2015. The European Union on February 17, 2015 called for the immediate pull-back of heavy weapons from the frontline in eastern Ukraine and voiced concern about the surge in fighting in a key flashpoint town of Debaltseve. AFP PHOTO / ANATOLII STEPANOV (Photo credit should read ANATOLII STEPANOV/AFP/Getty Images)
DONETSK, UKRAINE - FEBRUARY 17: Destroyed Ukrainian military armoured vehicles are seen on the nothern outskirts of Donestk on February 17, 2015 in Donetsk, Ukraine. A ceasefire agreed to by Ukraine and pro-Russian rebel forces has failed to prevent fighting in the nearby town of Debaltseve, where thousands of Ukrainian troops remain and whom rebels claim to have surrounded. (Photo by Pierre Crom/Getty Images)
MYRONIVSKYI, UKRAINE - FEBRUARY 17: A gas pipe burns after being struck by shelling on February 17, 2015 in Myronivskyi, Ukraine. A ceasefire agreed to by Ukraine and pro-Russian rebel forces has failed to prevent fighting in the nearby town of Debaltseve, where thousands of Ukrainian troops remain and whom rebels claim to have surrounded. (Photo by Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images)
DONETSK, UKRAINE - FEBRUARY 16: An Ukrainian soldier stands next to a destroyed military vehicle of Ukrainian army, near Debaltseve district of Donetsk, Ukraine on February 16, 2015. At least 112 attacks are carried out by pro-Russian separatists on the Ukrainian armys position and five Ukrainian soldiers were killed in the last 24 hours. (Photo by Viktor Koshkin/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
DONETSK, UKRAINE - FEBRUARY 16: Ukrainian soldiers are seen near Debaltseve district of Donetsk, Ukraine on February 16, 2015. At least 112 attacks are carried out by pro-Russian separatists on the Ukrainian armys position and five Ukrainian soldiers were killed in the last 24 hours. (Photo by Viktor Koshkin/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
DONETSK, UKRAINE - FEBRUARY 16: Ukrainian soldiers sit on a military vehicle of Ukrainian army near Debaltseve district of Donetsk, Ukraine on February 16, 2015. At least 112 attacks are carried out by pro-Russian separatists on the Ukrainian armys position and five Ukrainian soldiers were killed in the last 24 hours. (Photo by Viktor Koshkin/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
MOSPYNE, UKRAINE - FEBRUARY 16: Pro-Russian rebels attend the funerals of four rebel fighters who died on the frontline at the cemetery of Mospyne on February 16, 2015 in Mospyne, Ukraine. The rebels died on the frontline in Lohvynove near Debaltseve one day before the ceasefire . (Photo by Pierre Crom/Getty Images)
DONETSK, UKRAINE - FEBRUARY 16: An Ukrainian soldier stands next to a destroyed military vehicle of Ukrainian army, near Debaltseve district of Donetsk, Ukraine on February 16, 2015. At least 112 attacks are carried out by pro-Russian separatists on the Ukrainian armys position and five Ukrainian soldiers were killed in the last 24 hours. (Photo by Viktor Koshkin/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
DONETSK, UKRAINE - FEBRUARY 16: Ukrainian military vehicles of Ukrainian army are seen near Debaltseve district of Donetsk, Ukraine on February 16, 2015. At least 112 attacks are carried out by pro-Russian separatists on the Ukrainian armys position and five Ukrainian soldiers were killed in the last 24 hours. (Photo by Viktor Koshkin/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Ukrainian government soldiers sit on top of their armored vehicle driving on a road stretching away from the town of Artemivsk, Ukraine, towards Debaltseve, Tuesday, Feb. 17, 2015. Ukrainian government troops and Russia-backed rebels failed Tuesday to start pulling back heavy weaponry from the front line in eastern Ukraine as a deadline passed to do so. Under a cease-fire agreement negotiated by the leaders of Ukraine, Russia, Germany and France last week, the warring sides were to begin withdrawing heavy weapons from the front line on Tuesday. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)
A Ukrainian armored vehicle passes on a road stretching away from the town of Artemivsk, Ukraine, towards Debaltseve, Tuesday, Feb. 17, 2015. Ukrainian government troops and Russia-backed rebels failed Tuesday to start pulling back heavy weaponry from the front line in eastern Ukraine as a deadline passed to do so. Under a cease-fire agreement negotiated by the leaders of Ukraine, Russia, Germany and France last week, the warring sides were to begin withdrawing heavy weapons from the front line on Tuesday. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)
Ukrainian government soldiers sit on top of their vehicle driving on a road stretching away from the town of Artemivsk, Ukraine, towards Debaltseve, Tuesday, Feb. 17, 2015. Ukrainian government troops and Russia-backed rebels failed Tuesday to start pulling back heavy weaponry from the front line in eastern Ukraine as a deadline passed to do so. Under a cease-fire agreement negotiated by the leaders of Ukraine, Russia, Germany and France last week, the warring sides were to begin withdrawing heavy weapons from the front line on Tuesday. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)
An Ukrainian soldier rests on his vehicle near the road between the towns of Debaltseve and Artemivsk, Ukraine, Monday, Feb. 16, 2015. The Ukrainian government and Russia-backed rebels accused each other Monday of violating a cease-fire in eastern Ukraine, a day before the parties are due to start withdrawing heavy weaponry under a recently brokered deal. The cease-fire, which went into effect on Sunday, had raised cautious hopes for an end to the 10-month-old conflict, which has already claimed more than 5,300 lives. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)
MOSPYNE, UKRAINE - FEBRUARY 16: Graves in the cemetery of Mospyne during the funeral of four rebel fighters killed on the frontline on February 16, 2015 in Mospyne, Ukraine. The rebels died on the frontline in Lohvynove near Debaltseve one day before the ceasefire . (Photo by Pierre Crom/Getty Images)
Ukrainian reserve officers called up during the fourth wave of partial mobilization take part in military exercises in the Army Training Center near the village of Desna, Chernigiv region, on February 13, 2015. Fighting raged in Ukraine today as the clock ticked down to a ceasefire that will be a first test of Kiev and pro-Russian separatists' committment to a freshly-inked peace plan. AFP PHOTO / SERGEI SUPINSKY (Photo credit should read SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP/Getty Images)
Ukrainian reserve officers, called up during the fourth wave of partial mobilization, take part in military exercises in the Army Training Center near the village of Desna, Chernigiv region on February 13, 2015. At least 18 people have been killed in eastern Ukraine in new artillery shelling just a day after a peace deal was signed to end the 10-month conflict. AFP PHOTO/ SERGEI SUPINSKY (Photo credit should read SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP/Getty Images)
Russian President Vladimir Putin emerged from Ukraine peace talks by announcing a new cease-fire deal, but questions remained whether Ukraine and the pro-Russian rebels have agreed on its terms.
A resident looks out of her damaged windows after shelling between Russian-backed separatists and Ukrainian government forces occurred in a residential area of the town of Artemivsk, Ukraine, Friday, Feb. 13, 2015. Despite a looming cease-fire deal for eastern Ukraine, a government-held town 40 kilometers (25 miles) behind the front line has been hit by shelling, killing at least one person. The deadline for the warring sides to halt hostilities is Sunday morning at one minute after midnight. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)
Ukrainian reserve officers called up during the fourth wave of partial mobilization take part in military exercises in the Army Training Center near the village of Desna, Chernigiv region, on February 13, 2015. Fighting raged in Ukraine today as the clock ticked down to a ceasefire that will be a first test of Kiev and pro-Russian separatists' committment to a freshly-inked peace plan. AFP PHOTO / SERGEI SUPINSKY (Photo credit should read SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP/Getty Images)
Ukrainian reserve officers called up during the fourth wave of partial mobilization take part in military exercises in the Army Training Center near the village of Desna, Chernigiv region, on February 13, 2015. Fighting raged in Ukraine today as the clock ticked down to a ceasefire that will be a first test of Kiev and pro-Russian separatists' committment to a freshly-inked peace plan. AFP PHOTO / SERGEI SUPINSKY (Photo credit should read SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP/Getty Images)
Newly mobilized Ukrainian soldiers stand at a position during military drills in base Desna 100km north from Kiev, Ukraine, Friday, Feb. 13, 2015. Fierce fighting surged in east Ukraine as Russian-backed separatists mounted a major and sustained new push Friday to capture a strategic railway hub ahead of a weekend cease-fire deadline. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)
A newly mobilized Ukrainian soldier shows his skills during military drills in base Desna 100km north from Kiev, Ukraine, Friday, Feb. 13, 2015. Fierce fighting surged in east Ukraine as Russian-backed separatists mounted a major and sustained new push Friday to capture a strategic railway hub ahead of a weekend cease-fire deadline. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)
Ukrainian reserve officers, called up during the fourth wave of partial mobilization, take part in military exercises in the Army Training Center near the village of Desna, Chernigiv region on February 13, 2015. At least 18 people have been killed in eastern Ukraine in new artillery shelling just a day after a peace deal was signed to end the 10-month conflict. AFP PHOTO/ SERGEI SUPINSKY (Photo credit should read SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP/Getty Images)
A man carries a child after shelling between Russian-backed separatists and Ukrainian government forces in a residential area of the town of Artemivsk, Ukraine, Friday, Feb. 13, 2015. Despite a looming cease-fire deal for eastern Ukraine, a government-held town 40 kilometers (25 miles) behind the front line has been hit by shelling, killing at least one person. The deadline for the warring sides to halt hostilities is Sunday morning at one minute after midnight. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)
Ukrainian government soldiers inspect the body of a child covered with cloth after shelling between Russian-backed separatists and Ukrainian government forces in a residential area of the town of Artemivsk, Ukraine, Friday, Feb. 13, 2015. Despite a looming cease-fire deal for eastern Ukraine, a government-held town 40 kilometers (25 miles) behind the front line has been hit by shelling, killing at least one person. The deadline for the warring sides to halt hostilities is Sunday morning at one minute after midnight. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)
A Ukrainian government soldier talks to residents after shelling between Russian-backed separatists and Ukrainian government forces in a residential area of the town of Artemivsk, Ukraine, Friday, Feb. 13, 2015. Despite a looming cease-fire deal for eastern Ukraine, a government-held town 40 kilometers (25 miles) behind the front line has been hit by shelling, killing at least one person. The deadline for the warring sides to halt hostilities is Sunday morning at one minute after midnight. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)
MISNK, BELARUS - FEBRUARY 11: (L to R) Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko, Russian President Vladimir Putin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Francois Hollande and Ukrainian President Pyotr Poroshenko during peace talks over Eastern Ukraine on February 11, 2015 in Minsk, Belarus. The European leaders are meeting to discuss a cease-fire in the Ukraine. (Photo by Dmitry Azarov/Kommersant Photo via Getty Images).
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday emerged from marathon Ukraine peace talks by announcing a new cease-fire deal, but questions remained whether Ukraine and the pro-Russian rebels have agreed on its terms. (Feb. 12)
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, right, speaks with Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko after the peace talks in Minsk, Belarus, Thursday, Feb. 12, 2015. Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday emerged from marathon Ukraine peace talks by announcing a new cease-fire deal, but questions remained whether Ukraine and the pro-Russian rebels have agreed on its terms. (AP Photo/ Sergei Grits)
Russian President Vladimir Putin gestures as he speaks to the media after the peace talks in Minsk, Belarus, Thursday, Feb. 12, 2015. Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday emerged from marathon Ukraine peace talks by announcing a new cease-fire deal, but questions remained whether Ukraine and the pro-Russian rebels have agreed on its terms. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, Pool)
French President Francois Hollande, foreground right, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel walk after their marathon talks in Minsk, Belarus, Thursday, Feb. 12, 2015. French President Francois Hollande says he and German Chancellor Angela Merkel are committed to helping verify the cease-fire process in Ukraine, along with the Russian and Ukrainian leaders. Hollande said Thursday the announcement of a new cease-fire deal has come as a "relief to Europe."(AP Photo/ Sergei Grits)
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, center, and French President Francois Hollande, foreground left, thank Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, centre right, as they leave Minsk, Belarus, Thursday, Feb. 12, 2015. Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday emerged from marathon Ukraine peace talks by announcing a new cease-fire deal, but questions remained whether Ukraine and the pro-Russian rebels have agreed on its terms. (AP Photo/ Sergei Grits)
Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, gestures as he speaks with Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko after the peace talks in Minsk, Belarus, Thursday, Feb. 12, 2015. Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday emerged from marathon Ukraine peace talks by announcing a new cease-fire deal, but questions remained whether Ukraine and the pro-Russian rebels have agreed on its terms. (AP Photo/ Sergei Grits)
French President Francois Hollande, right, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel enter a room after their marathon talks in Minsk, Belarus, Thursday, Feb. 12, 2015. French President Francois Hollande says he and German Chancellor Angela Merkel are committed to helping verify the cease-fire process in Ukraine, along with the Russian and Ukrainian leaders. Hollande said Thursday the announcement of a new cease-fire deal has come as a "relief to Europe." (AP Photo/Kirill Kudryavtsev, Pool)
MISNK, BELARUS - FEBRUARY 11: Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) and Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko (R)during peace talks over Eastern Ukraine on February 11, 2015 in Minsk, Belarus. The European leaders are meeting to discuss a cease-fire in the Ukraine. (Photo by Dmitry Azarov/Kommersant Photo via Getty Images).
Members of Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) investigate the scene after a bus station was hit during a recent shelling between Russian-backed separatists and the Ukrainian government forces in Donetsk, Ukraine, Wednesday, Feb. 11, 2015. This is at least the third time a bus has been hit in the rebel stronghold but the first time it happens so close to the center, an area of the city which has so far been mostly spared the destruction. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)
Automatic gunfire from a Ukrainian military truck. Government forces have launched a counter offensive near the southeastern port city of Mariupol. They claim to have gained territory from Russian-backed rebels, who want greater independence with what they're calling "people's republics" in the east of the country.
People look at burned busses hit by shelling at a central bus station in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine Wednesday, Feb. 11, 2014. Fighting continued to rage in eastern Ukraine Wednesday ahead of crucial peace talks later in the day. Shelling rocked the bus station in the rebel stronghold of Donetsk, where an Associated Press reporter saw one body and was told by rebel officials that another body had been recently removed from the scene. (AP Photo/Balint Szlanko)
People look at burned busses hit by shelling at a central bus station in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine Wednesday, Feb. 11, 2014. Fighting continued to rage in eastern Ukraine Wednesday ahead of crucial peace talks later in the day. Shelling rocked the bus station in the rebel stronghold of Donetsk, where an Associated Press reporter saw one body and was told by rebel officials that another body had been recently removed from the scene. (AP Photo/Balint Szlanko)
KRAMATORSK, UKRAINE - FEBRUARY 10: Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko visits Ukraine's military headquarters after shelling in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kramatorsk, a town more than 30 miles away from the front lines, on February 10, 2015. At least 7 killed including 2 soldier and 26 wounded in a rocket attack on Ukraine's military headquarters, local authorities said. (Photo by Ukrainian Presidency Press Office/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
A Pro-Russian separatist fighter mans a checkpoint near the airport of Donetsk on Febuary 7, 2015. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov voiced optimism that a plan being worked on by Moscow, Berlin and Paris could bring an end to the Ukraine conflict. AFP PHOTO / DOMINIQUE FAGET (Photo credit should read DOMINIQUE FAGET/AFP/Getty Images)
A Russia-backed separatist walks past a destroyed bus after a bus station was hit during a recent shelling between Russian-backed separatists and the Ukrainian government forces in Donetsk, Ukraine, Wednesday, Feb. 11, 2015. This is at least the third time a bus has been hit in the rebel stronghold but the first time it happens so close to the center, an area of the city which has so far been mostly spared the destruction. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)
A woman holds a placard during a rally on Independence Square in Kiev, Ukraine, Sunday, Jan. 25, 2015 in solidarity with the victims of a rocket attack on the coastal city of Mariupol. Indiscriminate rocket fire slammed into a market, schools, homes and shops Saturday in Ukraine's southeastern city of Mariupol, killing at least 30 people, authorities said. The Ukrainian president called the blitz a terrorist attack and NATO and the U.S. demanded that Russia stops supporting the rebels. (AP Photo/Sergei Chuzavkov)
U.S. and European leaders threatened new sanctions against Moscow after a missile attack blamed on pro-Russian separatists killed 30 civilians in the eastern Ukrainian city of Mariupol. Niki Blasina reports.
A man walks by a burned car and a piece of exploded Grad missile, outside an apartment building in Vostochniy district of Mariupol, Eastern Ukraine, Sunday, Jan. 25, 2015. Indiscriminate rocket fire slammed into a market, schools, homes and shops Saturday in Ukraine's southeastern city of Mariupol, killing at least 30 people, authorities said. The Ukrainian president called the blitz a terrorist attack and NATO and the U.S. demanded that Russia stop supporting the rebels. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)
People light candles and lay flowers on Independence Square in Kiev, Ukraine, Sunday, Jan. 25, 2015, for the victims of a rocket attack on the coastal city of Mariupol. Indiscriminate rocket fire slammed into a market, schools, homes and shops Saturday in Ukraine's southeastern city of Mariupol, killing at least 30 people, authorities said. The Ukrainian president called the blitz a terrorist attack and NATO and the U.S. demanded that Russia stops supporting the rebels. (AP Photo/Sergei Chuzavkov)
People light candles on Independence Square in Kiev, Ukraine, Sunday, Jan. 25, 2015, for the victims of a rocket attack on the coastal city of Mariupol. Indiscriminate rocket fire slammed into a market, schools, homes and shops Saturday in Ukraine's southeastern city of Mariupol, killing at least 30 people, authorities said. The Ukrainian president called the blitz a terrorist attack and NATO and the U.S. demanded that Russia stop supporting the rebels. (AP Photo/Sergei Chuzavkov)
Volunteers carry humanitarian aid after Saturday's attacks, in Mariupol, Ukraine, Sunday, Jan. 25, 2015. Indiscriminate rocket fire slammed into a market, schools, homes and shops Saturday in Ukraine's southeastern city of Mariupol, killing at least 30 people, authorities said. The Ukrainian president called the blitz a terrorist attack and NATO and the U.S. demanded that Russia stop supporting the rebels. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)
A man walks past a Soviet hummer and sickle sculpture, outside an apartment building damaged by a Grad missile in Vostochniy district of Mariupol, Eastern Ukraine, Sunday, Jan. 25, 2015. Indiscriminate rocket fire slammed into a market, schools, homes and shops Saturday in Ukraine's southeastern city of Mariupol, killing at least 30 people, authorities said. The Ukrainian president called the blitz a terrorist attack and NATO and the U.S. demanded that Russia stop supporting the rebels. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)
Local residents look at a burned car outside an apartment building in Vostochniy district of Mariupol, Eastern Ukraine, Sunday, Jan. 25, 2015. Indiscriminate rocket fire slammed into a market, schools, homes and shops Saturday in Ukraine's southeastern city of Mariupol, killing at least 30 people, authorities said. The Ukrainian president called the blitz a terrorist attack and NATO and the U.S. demanded that Russia stop supporting the rebels. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)
Volunteers carry humanitarian aid after Saturday's attacks, in Mariupol, Ukraine, Sunday, Jan. 25, 2015. Indiscriminate rocket fire slammed into a market, schools, homes and shops Saturday in Ukraine's southeastern city of Mariupol, killing at least 30 people, authorities said. The Ukrainian president called the blitz a terrorist attack and NATO and the U.S. demanded that Russia stop supporting the rebels. (AP Photo/Sergey Vaganov)
A woman lights a candle on Independence Square in Kiev, Ukraine, Sunday, Jan. 25, 2015 for the victims of a rocket attack on the coastal city of Mariupol. Indiscriminate rocket fire slammed into a market, schools, homes and shops Saturday in Ukraine's southeastern city of Mariupol, killing at least 30 people, authorities said. The Ukrainian president called the blitz a terrorist attack and NATO and the U.S. demanded that Russia stop supporting the rebels. (AP Photo/Sergei Chuzavkov)
People examine their burned cars, parked outside an apartment building in Vostochniy district of Mariupol, Eastern Ukraine, Sunday, Jan. 25, 2015. Indiscriminate rocket fire slammed into a market, schools, homes and shops Saturday in Ukraine's southeastern city of Mariupol, killing at least 30 people, authorities said. The Ukrainian president called the blitz a terrorist attack and NATO and the U.S. demanded that Russia stop supporting the rebels. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)
A man walks past an apartment building damaged by a Grad missile in Vostochniy district of Mariupol, Eastern Ukraine, Sunday, Jan. 25, 2015. Indiscriminate rocket fire slammed into a market, schools, homes and shops Saturday in Ukraine's southeastern city of Mariupol, killing at least 30 people, authorities said. The Ukrainian president called the blitz a terrorist attack and NATO and the U.S. demanded that Russia stop supporting the rebels. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)
A piece of an exploded Grad missile is photographed outside an apartment building in Vostochniy, district of Mariupol, Eastern Ukraine, Sunday, Jan. 25, 2015. Indiscriminate rocket fire slammed into a market, schools, homes and shops Saturday in Ukraine's southeastern city of Mariupol, killing at least 30 people, authorities said. The Ukrainian president called the blitz a terrorist attack and NATO and the U.S. demanded that Russia stop supporting the rebels. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)
Volunteers distribute humanitarian aid after Saturday's attacks, in Mariupol, Ukraine, Sunday, Jan. 25, 2015. Indiscriminate rocket fire slammed into a market, schools, homes and shops Saturday in Ukraine's southeastern city of Mariupol, killing at least 30 people, authorities said. The Ukrainian president called the blitz a terrorist attack and NATO and the U.S. demanded that Russia stop supporting the rebels. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)
A piece of an exploded Grad missile is photographed as a man takes a photo of a burned car in the background, outside an apartment building in Vostochniy, district of Mariupol, Eastern Ukraine, Sunday, Jan. 25, 2015. Indiscriminate rocket fire slammed into a market, schools, homes and shops Saturday in Ukraine's southeastern city of Mariupol, killing at least 30 people, authorities said. The Ukrainian president called the blitz a terrorist attack and NATO and the U.S. demanded that Russia stop supporting the rebels. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)
Rescue workers try to pull out a piece of an exploded Grad missile outside an apartment building in Vostochniy district of Mariupol, Eastern Ukraine, Sunday, Jan. 25, 2015. Indiscriminate rocket fire slammed into a market, schools, homes and shops Saturday in Ukraine's southeastern city of Mariupol, killing at least 30 people, authorities said. The Ukrainian president called the blitz a terrorist attack and NATO and the U.S. demanded that Russia stop supporting the rebels. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)
People lay flowers and set candles on January 24, 2015, during a rally to mourn at a bus stop in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine, where 13 people were killed in a trolleybus shelling on January 22. At least 27 people died on January 24, in a rocket attack on Ukraine's strategic government-held port of Mariupol after Russian-backed rebels rejected peace talks, the mayor's office said. AFP PHOTO/ALEXANDER GAYUK (Photo credit should read ALEXANDER GAYUK/AFP/Getty Images)
People light candles on Independence Square in Kiev on 24, 2015 to mourn people who died as a result of shelling in southern Ukrainian city of Mariupol. At least 27 people died in a rocket attack on Ukraine's strategic government-held port of Mariupol after Russian-backed rebels rejected peace talks, the mayor's office said. AFP PHOTO/ YURY KIRNICHNY (Photo credit should read YURY KIRNICHNY/AFP/Getty Images)
People light candles on Independence Square in Kiev on 24, 2015, in mourning for people who died as a result of shelling in the southern Ukrainian city of Mariupol. At least 27 people died in a rocket attack on Ukraine's strategic government-held port of Mariupol after Russian-backed rebels rejected peace talks, the mayor's office said. AFP PHOTO/ YURY KIRNICHNY (Photo credit should read YURY KIRNICHNY/AFP/Getty Images)
People hold placards reading 'I am Mariupol' as they stand beside candles on Independence Square in Kiev on 24, 2015, lit in mourning for people who died as a result of shelling in the southern Ukrainian city of Mariupol. At least 27 people died in a rocket attack on Ukraine's strategic government-held port of Mariupol after Russian-backed rebels rejected peace talks, the mayor's office said. AFP PHOTO/ YURY KIRNICHNY (Photo credit should read YURY KIRNICHNY/AFP/Getty Images)
People lay tributes for victims of a shelling at a bus stop in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine, during a rally on January 24, 2015. Eight civilians died in a trolleybus shelling in Ukraine's pro-Russian rebel stronghold of Donetsk, separatist and Kiev officials said on January 23, revising down an earlier toll. The trolleybus shelling was among the bloodiest incidents involving civilians in recent months in a conflict that has devastated the ex-Soviet republic's industrial heartland and brought Ukraine's economy to its knees. AFP PHOTO/ALEXANDER GAYUK (Photo credit should read ALEXANDER GAYUK/AFP/Getty Images)
People set candles on Independence Square in Kiev on January 24, 2015 in memory of people who died during shelling in the southern Ukrainian city of Mariupol. At least 27 people died on January 24 in a rocket attack on Ukraine's strategic government-held port of Mariupol after Russian-backed rebels rejected peace talks, the mayor's office said. AFP PHOTO / ANATOLII STEPANOV (Photo credit should read ANATOLII STEPANOV/AFP/Getty Images)
MARIUPOL, UKRAINE - JANUARY 24: At least 10 people have been killed and 46 others wounded by rockets Saturday in the southeastern Ukrainian city of Mariupol on January 24, 2015. Buildings are on fire and damaged after this incident. (Photo by Maxim Scherbina/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
MARIUPOL, UKRAINE - JANUARY 24: At least 10 people have been killed and 46 others wounded by rockets Saturday in the southeastern Ukrainian city of Mariupol on January 24, 2015. Buildings are on fire and damaged after this incident. (Photo by Maxim Scherbina/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Ukrainians pay their final respects to serviceman Serhiy Nikonenko, who was killed in fighting against Russian-backed rebels, during a funeral in Kiev, Ukraine, Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2015. Full-scale fighting has broken out between government forces and separatists after a new truce agreed in December collapsed as rebels attempted to wrest the airport in the separatist stronghold of Donetsk from government control. (AP Photo/Sergei Chuzavkov)
Ukrainian soldiers pay their final respects to serviceman Serhiy Nikonenko, who was killed in fighting against Russian-backed rebels, during a funeral in Kiev, Ukraine, Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2015. Full-scale fighting has broken out between government forces and separatists after a new truce agreed in December collapsed as rebels attempted to wrest the airport in the separatist stronghold of Donetsk from government control. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)
Ukrainian soldiers carry a coffin bearing the body of serviceman Serhiy Nikonenko, left, who was killed in fighting against pro-Russian rebels, during a funeral in Independence Square, Kiev, Ukraine, on Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2015. Full-scale fighting has broken out between government forces and the Russian-backed rebels after a new truce agreed in December collapsed as rebels attempted to wrest the airport in the separatist stronghold of Donetsk from government control. (AP Photo/Sergei Chuzavkov)
This photo taken by a drone on Thursday, Jan. 15, 2015 shows a destroyed control tower at the airport in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine. Battles for control over the airport on the northern edge of the main separatist stronghold of Donetsk intensified over the week with rebels taking control over the terminal, although fighting is continuing in nearby settlements. The airport, which was a major showcase of the Euro 2012 Championship hosted by Ukraine, has been reduced to a hulking wreck by months of intense fighting. (AP Photo/ArmySOS)
Ukrainian soldiers carry a coffin bearing the body of serviceman Serhiy Nikonenko, who was killed in fighting against Russian-backed rebels, during a funeral in Kiev, Ukraine, Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2015. Full-scale fighting has broken out between government forces and separatists after a new truce agreed in December collapsed as rebels attempted to wrest the airport in the separatist stronghold of Donetsk from government control. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)
Volunteers from the Azov volunteer battalion get on the bus set for the eastern part of Ukraine to join the ranks of special battalion "Azov" fighting against pro-Russian separatists, in Kiev, Ukraine, Saturday, Jan. 17, 2015. (AP Photo/Sergei Chuzavkov)
MARIUPOL, UKRAINE - JANUARY 24: At least 10 people have been killed and 46 others wounded by rockets Saturday in the southeastern Ukrainian city of Mariupol on January 24, 2015. Buildings are on fire and damaged after this incident. (Photo by Maxim Scherbina/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
MARIUPOL, UKRAINE - JANUARY 24: At least 10 people have been killed and 46 others wounded by rockets Saturday in the southeastern Ukrainian city of Mariupol on January 24, 2015. Buildings are on fire and damaged after this incident. (Photo by Maxim Scherbina/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
MARIUPOL, UKRAINE - JANUARY 24: At least 10 people have been killed and 46 others wounded by rockets Saturday in the southeastern Ukrainian city of Mariupol on January 24, 2015. Buildings are on fire and damaged after this incident. (Photo by Maxim Scherbina/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
MARIUPOL, UKRAINE - JANUARY 24: At least 10 people have been killed and 46 others wounded by rockets Saturday in the southeastern Ukrainian city of Mariupol on January 24, 2015. Buildings are on fire and damaged after this incident. (Photo by Maxim Scherbina/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
MARIUPOL, UKRAINE - JANUARY 24: At least 10 people have been killed and 46 others wounded by rockets Saturday in the southeastern Ukrainian city of Mariupol on January 24, 2015. Buildings are on fire and damaged after this incident. (Photo by Maxim Scherbina/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
A woman resident passes by a burning house in Mariupol, Ukraine, Saturday, Jan. 24, 2015. A crowded open-air market in Ukraine's strategically important coastal city of Mariupol came under rocket fire Saturday morning, killing at least 10 people, regional police said. Heavy fighting in the region in the autumn raised fears that Russian-backed separatist forces would try to establish a land link between Russia and Crimea. Pro-Russian separatist forces have positions within 10 kilometers (six miles) from Mariupol's eastern outskirts. (AP Photo/Sergey Vaganov)
Residents pass by burning houses, a dead body in the background, in Mariupol, Ukraine, Saturday, Jan. 24, 2015. A crowded open-air market in Ukraine's strategically important coastal city of Mariupol came under rocket fire Saturday morning, killing at least 10 people, regional police said. Heavy fighting in the region in the autumn raised fears that Russian-backed separatist forces would try to establish a land link between Russia and Crimea. Pro-Russian separatist forces have positions within 10 kilometers (six miles) from Mariupol's eastern outskirts. (AP Photo/Sergey Vaganov)
Burned cars on a destroyed parking site in a residential area in Mariupol, Ukraine, Saturday, Jan. 24, 2015. A crowded open-air market in Ukraine's strategically important coastal city of Mariupol came under rocket fire Saturday morning, killing at least 10 people, regional police said. Heavy fighting in the region in the autumn raised fears that Russian-backed separatist forces would try to establish a land link between Russia and Crimea. Pro-Russian separatist forces have positions within 10 kilometers (six miles) from Mariupol's eastern outskirts. (AP Photo/Sergey Vaganov)
EDS NOTE GRAPHIC CONTENT An Orthodox priest grieves at the bodies of killed Ukrainian soldiers on a check-point captured by pro-Russian rebels at the town of Krasniy Partizan, eastern Ukraine, Saturday, Jan. 24, 2015. The fighting continues despite several cease fire declarations. (AP Photo/Mstyslav Chernov)
A pro-Russian rebel patrols positions at a check-point captured by pro-Russian rebels, at the town of Krasniy Partizan, eastern Ukraine, Saturday, Jan. 24, 2015. The fighting continues despite several cease fire declarations. (AP Photo/Mstyslav Chernov)
A pro-Russian rebel holds a Ukrainian flag found in a check-point captured by pro-Russian rebels, at the town of Krasniy Partizan, eastern Ukraine, Saturday, Jan. 24, 2015. The fighting continues despite several cease fire declarations. (AP Photo/Mstyslav Chernov)
Pro-Russian rebels help a priest to put bodies of killed Ukrainian soldiers in a truck on a check point captured by pro-Russian rebels at the town of Krasniy Partizan, eastern Ukraine, Saturday, Jan. 24, 2015. The fighting continues despite several cease fire declarations. (AP Photo/Mstyslav Chernov)
A woman resident passes by a burning house in Mariupol, Ukraine, Saturday, Jan. 24, 2015. A crowded open-air market in Ukraine's strategically important coastal city of Mariupol came under rocket fire Saturday morning, killing at least 10 people, regional police said. Heavy fighting in the region in the autumn raised fears that Russian-backed separatist forces would try to establish a land link between Russia and Crimea. Pro-Russian separatist forces have positions within 10 kilometers (six miles) from Mariupol's eastern outskirts. (AP Photo/Sergey Vaganov)
This photo taken by a drone on Thursday, Jan. 15, 2015 shows the destroyed airport in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine. Battles for control over the airport on the northern edge of the main separatist stronghold of Donetsk intensified over the week with rebels taking control over the terminal, although fighting is continuing in nearby settlements. The airport, which was a major showcase of the Euro 2012 Championship hosted by Ukraine, has been reduced to a hulking wreck by months of intense fighting. (AP Photo/ArmySOS)
People queue to receive humanitarian aid from the charitable foundation of Ukrainian billionaire Rinat Akhmetov, whose vast wealth is founded on the industrial output of Donetsk coal-rich region, in Donetsk, Eastern Ukraine, Tuesday, Jan. 13, 2015. Akhmetov is contentious figure in eastern Ukraine. Although a major provider of employment, he is regarded with profound suspicion by much of the impoverished local population. Still, his standing improves with every consignment of goods that reaches separatist-held regions. Amnesty International said it received reports before the New Year holidays of volunteer battalions fighting alongside Ukrainian government forces of preventing the Akhmetov convoys from getting through. The battalion justified their actions by arguing that the food and clothes in the trucks could ultimately help to support the separatist cause, Amnesty says. (AP Photo/ Mstyslav Chernov)
Ukrainian nationalists carry torches and a banner with a portrait of Stepan Bandera during a rally in downtown Kiev, Ukraine, late Thursday, Jan. 1, 2015. The rally was organized on the occasion of the birth anniversary of Stepan Bandera, founder of a rebel army that fought against the Soviet regime and who was assassinated in Germany in 1959. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)
A pro-Russian rebel guards the road near the Airport of Donetsk, Eastern Ukraine, Tuesday, Jan. 6 , 2015. Ukrainian soldiers took up duties Tuesday at the Donetsk Airport, which has been the scene of some of the fiercest fighting in eastern Ukraine. The 50 soldiers in a convoy of four trucks were provided safe passage to the airport by rebel forces, who gave them gifts in celebration of Orthodox Christmas. (AP Photo/Mstyslav Chernov)
Ukrainian nationalists carry torches during a rally in downtown Kiev, Ukraine, late Thursday, Jan. 1, 2015. The rally was organized on the occasion of the birth anniversary of Stepan Bandera, founder of a rebel army that fought against the Soviet regime and who was assassinated in Germany in 1959. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)
Ukrainian nationalists carry torches during a rally in downtown Kiev, Ukraine, late Thursday, Jan. 1, 2015. The rally was organized on the occasion of the birth anniversary of Stepan Bandera, founder of a rebel army that fought against the Soviet regime and who was assassinated in Germany in 1959. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)
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The United States now sees the Ukrainian rebels as a Russian force.

American officials briefed on intelligence from the region say Russia has significantly deepened its command and control of the militants in eastern Ukraine in recent months, leading the U.S. to quietly introduce a new term: "combined Russian-separatist forces." The State Department used the expression three times in a single statement last week, lambasting Moscow and the insurgents for a series of cease-fire violations in Ukraine.

The shift in U.S. perceptions could have wide-ranging ramifications, even if the Obama administration has cited close linkages between the pro-Russian separatists and Putin's government in Moscow since violence flared up in Ukraine a year ago.

By describing them as an integrated force in the east of the country, the U.S. is putting greater responsibility on Russia for the continued fighting. That will make it harder for Russia to persuade the U.S. and Europe to scale back sanctions that are hurting its economy, and for Washington and Moscow to partner on unrelated matters from nuclear nonproliferation to counterterrorism.

U.S. intelligence agencies signed off on the new language last week, after what officials outlined as increasing evidence of the Russians and separatists working together, training together and operating under a joint command structure that ultimately answers to Russia. The officials weren't authorized to be quoted by name and demanded anonymity.

Some of that evidence was presented in a statement released by State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf on April 22 after Secretary of State John Kerry raised his concerns by telephone with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

Harf spoke of Russia's deployment of air defense systems closer to the front lines, increased troop levels near Kharkov, Ukraine's second largest city, and intensified training sessions involving the use of Russian drones. She called the unmanned aerial vehicles "an unmistakable sign of Russia's presence."

The uprising began after protesters chased Ukraine's pro-Russia president out of power and Moscow responded by annexing the Ukrainian region of Crimea. The insurgency started with miners, farmers and others without military training rebelling against the new government, and quickly expanded. More than 6,000 people have died and a million have been displaced by the conflict.

Russia's air defense concentration in eastern Ukraine is now at its highest level since August, the U.S. says. Russia has more ground forces at the border than at any point since October. These developments and others have American officials fearful that Moscow and the separatists may be planning an offensive in the coming weeks.

"War could start at any moment," Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said this week.

Recent fighting has been concentrated near the Black Sea port of Mariupol. Ukraine's government still controls the territory, but a separatist takeover would establish a land bridge between mainland Russia and Crimea.

Associated Press reporting in eastern Ukraine this spring showed Russia expanding its training of separatist fighters to improve their capabilities to operate sophisticated Russian weaponry and defend territory. At the same time, Russia has reduced the number of its troops deployed in Ukraine.

The shift appears designed to minimize Russia's visible military presence while it seeks to persuade the West to lift economic sanctions.

Yet Russian troops have been a "permanent feature of the conflict," said Igor Sutyagin, a London-based Russia scholar.

Russian forces in Ukraine, he said, peaked at about 9,000 in late February. He calculated the estimation on sightings of weaponry and postings by soldiers on social media. Several hundred Russian military trainers are likely in eastern Ukraine right now, he said.

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Associated Press writer Nataliya Vasilyeva in Moscow and Deb Riechmann in Washington contributed to this report.

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