Satellite pictures from NATO have been released, reportedly showing up to 1,000 armed Russian forces inside of Ukraine, supporting separatists as well as fighting on the side of the separatists.
NATO Brigadier General Niko Tak told the BBC there has been a “significant escalation” in the level of Russian military activity and sophisticated weaponry in and near Ukraine over the past two weeks. “[NATO has] detected large quantities of advanced weapons, including air defense systems, artillery, tanks, and armoured personnel carriers being transferred to separatist forces in eastern Ukraine,” he said.
Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko said earlier today, according to the New York Times, Russian soldiers and armaments had indeed crossed into Ukraine, but warned the Ukrainian national security council a panicked response would only cause further destabilization of the situation. “The situation is certainly extremely difficult,” Poroshenko said, “and nobody is going to simplify it.”
Other Ukrainian officials are going one step further saying the Russians forces entering Ukraine constitute an invasion.
Mykhailo Lysenko, deputy commander of the Ukrainian Donbas battalion, said the Russian forces have begun a two front invasion of Ukraine. Troops are entering Ukraine, according to CNN, from southeast of the rebel held town of Donetsk, while other Russian forces are entering the country along the nation’s southern coast near the town of Novoazovsk.
The town of Novoazovsk is a critical point in the Russia-Ukraine conflict as it establishes a supply route from Russia to the Russian-annexed Crimea. Pro-Russian forces in Ukraine have said, according to Al-Jazeera, the link could give their forces control over the Sea of Azov, which experts claim is rich in minerals and natural gas.
“Today we reached the Sea of Azov,” prime minister of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, Alexander Zakharchenko, said to Reuters. “The process of liberating our land, which is temporarily occupied by the Ukrainian authorities, will keep going further and further.”
All of this comes in the wake of a meeting on Tuesday between Poroshenko and Russian president Vladimir Putin. Poroshenko reportedly said the talks were “positive” and Putin had accepted the principles of a peace plan. However, Putin said only Kiev could secure a cease-fire between separatists and Ukraine, saying “We in Russia cannot talk about any conditions for the cease-fire.”