Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko has confirmed that regular forces have directly invaded the war-torn east part of the country and has called an emergency meeting of Ukraine’s security and defence council.
The US ambassador in Kiev also declared Russia was“directly involved” in fighting in the war-torn east of Ukraine.
“An increasing number of Russian troops are intervening directly in fighting in Ukrainian territory,” Geoffrey Pyatt wrote on Twitter, adding that Moscow was “directly involved in the fighting” and had sent in its “newest air defence systems including the SA-22.”
A senior NATO official says that “well over a thousand” Russian troops are operating inside Ukraine.
“They support separatists, fighting with them and fighting among them,” the official said on Thursday on condition of anonymity, adding that the supply of arms by Russia had increased in both “volume and quality”.
The official, who was speaking to reporters ahead of a NATO summit next week in Britain, said the situation was made even more worrying because the key route between Donetsk and Novoazovsk, on the Sea of Azov close to the Russian border, had been cut off by pro-Kremlin forces.
“The supply line is cut” for the Ukrainian army, he said.
The official warned that the latest events in Ukraine “have made clear that the security paradigm in Europe has fundamentally changed” in the face of a “very aggressive Russia”.
He said the past weeks have seen a “real upsurge in Russia’s activity” in the flashpoint region, including the supply of weapons, ammunition, special forces training, intelligence and logistic support.
“All this has been systematically denied, adding confusion,” he said.
The United Nations announced it would hold an emergency meeting in New York overnight to deal with the crisis.
British Prime Minister David Cameron has warned Russia it could face “further consequences” following reports Moscow had sent troops into eastern Ukraine, which he said would be “completely unacceptable and illegal”.
“We urge Russia to pursue a different path and to find a political solution to this crisis. If Russia does not, then she should be in no doubt that there will be further consequences,” Cameron said in a statement overnight.
A senior NATO official said at least 1000 Russian troops were on the ground supporting pro-Kremlin separatists who have been there since April.
“President Putin has said that Russia is willing to find a peaceful solution to the conflict but this is not credible when Russia is supporting pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine with arms and troops,” Cameron said.
“It is simply not enough to engage in talks in Minsk, while Russian tanks continue to roll over the border into Ukraine,” he said, referring to talks this week between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Ukrainian counterpart Petro Poroshenko.
Ukraine’s ambassador to the EU immediately called for “large-scale” military assistance from Brussels as the Russian troops were fighting in the east of the country.
Kostiantyn Yelisieiev called for EU leaders who are meeting Saturday to decide on “further resolute significant sanctions and large-scale military and technical assistance to Ukraine in order to stop the aggressor”.
The European Union said it was “extremely concerned” by reports of an incursion by Russian troops into Ukraine.
“We are extremely concerned by the latest developments, including reports on what is happening on the ground,” Maja Kocijancic, spokeswoman for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, said at a news conference.