US claims Russia fired rockets into Ukraine
US says Ukrainian army positions were targeted and that Russia plans to give heavy missiles to rebels
One week after Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was shot down in Ukraine, US officials say Russia has fired artillery across the border into its neighbour – and intends to hand rocket launchers to Ukrainian rebels.
The US State Department's Marie Harf told reporters that "human intelligence information" proved that artillery had been fired across the border from Russia, targeting Ukrainian military positions.
She also said Russia intends "to deliver heavier and more powerful multiple rocket launchers" to the rebels, the BBC reports.
While the US has stopped short of claiming Russian forces shot down the passenger jet, it has blamed the incident on pro-Russian rebels using an SA-11 Buk surface-to-air missile provided by Russia. The Kremlin has frequently denied arming the rebels.
Rebel commanders have given conflicting accounts of whether or not they possessed such a missile launcher. It is not thought to be possible that the plane could have been shot down with lighter arms such as a shoulder-mounted missile.
In Moscow meanwhile, though the majority of citizens don't believe pro-Russian rebels had any involvement in the incident, notes apologising for the disaster with flowers and cards have been left at the Dutch embassy, says Sky News.
Of the 298 people on board the plane, 193 were Dutch citizens. The first military aircraft bringing bodies back to Holland began to arrive on Wednesday, greeted by mourners and the country's king and queen.
In the UK, air crash investigators have successfully extracted data from the plane's two black box flight recorders. They are looking for voice recordings of the last moments of the flight.
On Thursday, the EU announced it was stepping up sanctions against Russia, put in place earlier in the year over fears Russia was arming rebels and had annexed Crimea. Fifteen people and 18 entities were added to the sanction list.
Russia's ambassador to the UK, Alexander Yakovenko, condemned the sanctions as "illegal, unreasonable and counterproductive".