Reports from the Ukranian government discuss a column of 32 tanks and 30 trucks that have crossed into the border from Russia. A military spokesperson confirmed that the trucks were carrying ammunition and fighters, the first heard of from the region since a ceasefire was declared in September. Hundreds have died since the ceasefire, bringing the death toll to 4,000 since April, after pro-Russian separatists gained control of Donetsk and Luhansk.
The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe is monitoring the situation and warns of “blood-letting” and many incidents of shelling. The Interfax-Ukraine news agency in Donetsk reported heavy artillery on Friday fueling fears of a full-scale conflict, especially since separatists held elections on Sunday defying Ukraine’s existing government. BBC‘s David Stern based in Kiev fears that the weakening ceasefire will not hold good if the incursion across borders is verified.
The column of tanks and trucks that crossed the border and headed for Krasny Luch, a town in rebel-controlled Luhansk on Thursday according to Ukraine’s military. Andriy Lysenko, the Ukrainian military spokesman said that deployment of Russian military equipment and mercenaries to the frontlines of the war-torn regions still continues. Canada’s foreign minster John Baird on Friday accused Russia of moving troops to the border in Ukraine. Russia’s Interfax news agency reported that the Defence Ministry labeled the claims “groundless” and made “without factual proof,” although the Kremlin has yet to respond to these allegations.
NATO is looking into reports, and if confirmed, the crossing “would be further evidence of Russia’s aggression and direct involvement in destabilising Ukraine.” Germany and the U.S. share NATO’s opinion. Jen Psaki, the State Department’s spokesperson views the unconfirmed report as a blatant violation of the ceasefire agreement if it is true. The U.S. and Ukraine have decided to share information in light of recent revelations regarding the breach.
Last Sunday, Russia recognized 38-year-old separatist leader Alexander Zakharchenko’s election as the head of the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic. Further to the east, Luhansk’s People’s Republic, another independent region found its leader in 50-year-old ex-Soviet army officer Igor Plotnitsky. Current Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko ordered reinforcements to key cities and accused rebels of blatantly violating the terms of the peace treaty brokered in a difficult situation and threatened to scrap a law that gave partial autonomy in regions controlled by the rebels.
Pro-separatists hit back at an angry Poroshenko on Wednesday arguing that the convoy was brought in because he scrapped the special status deal and broke the agreement. Poroshenko insisted that he had not broken the peace plan, calling his threat to scrap the idea a move to “repel possible attacks” and avoid the “spread of this cancerous tumor.” Kiev denied allegations that the Ukranian government attacked rebels, while officials in Russia backed the ceasefire and wanted further peace talks, Kremlin foreign policy adviser Yuri Ushakov diplomatically stated that Russia respected the voters will in the leadership elections, choosing to use “respect” and not “recognize” with deliberation clarifying his stand on the issue.
By Rathan Paul Harshavardan