Ukraine accused Russia of launching a new military incursion across its eastern border on Wednesday, as hopes quickly faded that Tuesday’s talks between their two presidents in Belarus’s Minsk might mark a turning point in a five-month-old crisis.
Ukrainian military spokesman Andriy Lysenko said a group of Russian soldiers had crossed the border in armored infantry carriers and a truck and entered the town of Amvrosiyivka, not far from where Ukraine detained 10 Russian soldiers on Monday.
Ukraine’s Security Services also said in a statement it had detained another Russian soldier in the east of the country who has confessed his unit provided military support to separatist rebels, reuters.com reports.
Lysenko said fighting in two other towns, Horlivka and Ilovaysk, had killed about 200 pro-Russian separatists and destroyed tanks and missile systems. Thirteen Ukrainian service personnel had been killed in the past 24 hours and 36 had been wounded.
Pro-Russian separatists have entered the port town of Novoazovsk in eastern Ukraine, an area which could be strategically vital, bbc.com reports. The town sits on the Sea of Azov, along the coastal road which runs from the Russia-Ukraine border to Crimea, through Ukrainian territory. The separatists are reported to be heading for a key port of Mariupol.
No comment was immediately available from the Russian defense ministry on the alleged incursion. Russia denies sending weapons and soldiers to help the separatists.
British Prime Minister David Cameron and European Council President Herman Van Rompuy have agreed to increase pressure on Russian President Vladimir Putin to seek a de-escalation of the situation in Ukraine, Ukraine’s Channel 24 has reported, citing the website of the British government.
“The Prime Minister also spoke to President Van Rompuy yesterday afternoon about the summit, including the appointment of the new Council President and High Representative and the situation in Ukraine, on which they agreed that the EU should continue to put pressure on President Putin to deescalate the situation,” reads the statement.
In a telephone call with Putin, Germany’s Angela Merkel said reports of a new Russian military incursion into Ukrainian territory had to be cleared up, a spokesman for the chancellor said in a statement.
“The latest reports of the presence of Russian soldiers on Ukrainian territory must be explained,” said Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert. “She emphasized Russia’s major responsibility for de-escalation and watching over its own frontiers.”
At the same time, Czech diplomat David Stulik believes that Russia is repeating the Crimean scenario of aggression on the mainland Ukraine.
U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt has said that Russia is sending a growing number of its troops and newest air defense systems to eastern Ukraine and is now directly involved in the fighting.
Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt says that regular military forces of Ukraine and Russia are now fighting in the east of Ukraine. “We are now evidently seeing fighting between regular Russian and regular Ukrainian forces in Eastern Ukraine. There is a word for this,” he said on Twitter.
U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki says that Russia is directing a counteroffensive in Donetsk and Luhansk regions, Voice of America reported in the early hours of Thursday, Aug. 28.
Russia’s aggression and intimidation toward Ukraine should get a collective response from Canada and its allies, Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird has said.
A senior NATO diplomat said Russian support for the separatists was becoming increasingly open.
“I think there’s a shift here that we may be witnessing, very recently, from largely covert, ambiguous, deniable support to what appears increasingly to be flat-out, overt and obvious (support) and with the only form of ambiguity being that the Russians … claim it is not happening,” said the diplomat, speaking to reporters in Brussels on condition of anonymity.
He said increasingly sophisticated weapons systems were now in the area, including the SA-22 surface-to-air missile, which is more advanced than the SA-11 system that many Western officials suspect rebels used to bring down the Malaysian jet.
Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Ministry Sergei Lavrov is preparing … another ‘humanitarian’ convoy to Ukraine. The diplomat “has a reason to expect that technical and logistical solutions will be found for the next humanitarian aid”, ITAR_TASS reports.