Ukraine Destroys Russian Military Vehicles That Entered in the East
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko claimed the army destroyed part of a Russian military convoy after it entered east Ukraine.
Russia denied a military presence among the humanitarian aid, but reporters from The Telegraph and The Guardian witnessed military vehicles from Russia cross into Ukraine. Alexander Zakharchenko, the new leader of Donetsk People’s Republic, also contradicted Russia when he said the rebels received 1,200 troops trained in Russia.
Roland Oliphant from The Telegraph described the military procession:
The convoy, which included at least 23 vehicles, appeared to be waiting until sunset near a refugee camp just outside Donetsk, before moving towards the crossing without turning off headlights or making any other attempt to conceal itself.
While the force did not seem to be a substantial invasion force, it confirms that military supplies are moving across the border. While the APCs carried no visible markings the fuel tankers and soft-skinned trucks in the convoy bore black Russian military number plates.
The vehicles do not appear to be associated with the Russian aid convoy that is camped 20 miles further down the same road.
The Guardian’s Shaun Walker provided details of the vehicles:
The Guardian saw a column of 23 armoured personnel carriers, supported by fuel trucks and other logistics vehicles with official Russian military plates, travelling towards the border near the Russian town of Donetsk – about 200km away from Donetsk, Ukraine.
After pausing by the side of the road until nightfall, the convoy crossed into Ukrainian territory, using a rough dirt track and clearly crossing through a gap in a barbed wire fence that demarcates the border. Armed men were visible in the gloom by the border fence as the column moved into Ukraine. Kiev has lost control of its side of the border in this area.
The trucks are unlikely to represent a full-scale official Russian invasion, and it was unclear how far they planned to travel inside Ukrainian territory and how long they would stay. But it was incontrovertible evidence of what Ukraine has long claimed – that Russian troops are active inside its borders.
It was also ironic given the attention to the huge convoy of humanitarian aid that moved slowly southwards on the M4 highway on Thursday. As the convoy moved closer to the stretch of border controlled by pro-Russian rebels it was hard to escape the feeling that Moscow's aid convoy had the potential to turn into a slow-motion disaster, perhaps even prompting a moment that could push Ukraine and Russia out of the messy conflict fought by proxies into full-blown, open engagement.
Walker’s prediction came true. The alleged humanitarian aid from Russia has now caused much strife in the region. After Oliphant and Walker witnessed the convoy traveling, Ukraine destroyed part of its group. While evidence that Russia has been working with pro-Russian rebels in Ukraine has been mounting in the past six months, Ukraine's actions now appear to confirm the government is fully aware of Russia's role in the dispute. The Telegraph reports:
[Prime Minister David] Cameron expressed “grave concerns” about the Russian operation in a telephone call with Mr Poroshenko, Ukraine’s president.
Philip Hammond, the Foreign Secretary, said he was “very alarmed” to hear that Russian armoured vehicles had struck into Ukraine, describing the situation as “potentially very dangerous.”
"Even as we work to gather information (about the partial destruction of the Russian armoured column), we reiterate our concern about repeated Russian and Russian-supported incursions into Ukraine," said National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden. "Russia has no right to send vehicles, persons, or cargo of any kind into Ukraine, under any pretext, without the government of Ukraine's permission."
"Any unilateral military actions on the part of the Russian Federation in Ukraine under any pretext, including humanitarian, will be considered by the European Union as a blatant violation of international law," EU foreign ministers stated.
"Last night we saw a Russian incursion, a crossing of the Ukrainian border," said NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen. "It just confirms the fact that we see a continuous flow of weapons and fighters from Russia into eastern Ukraine and it is a clear demonstration of continued Russian involvement in the destabilisation of eastern Ukraine.”
To make matters worse for Russia, Alexander Zakharchenko, the DNR’s new leader, said 1,200 troops “who trained for four months in Russia” joined the rebels in east Ukraine.
He said, “The following reserves have been gathered: 150 armoured vehicles, of which about 30 are tanks and the rest are BMPs and BTRs [infantry fighting vehicles and armoured personnel carriers], 1,200 military personnel, who are there now, who underwent training for four months on the territory of the Russian Federation. They were brought into action at the most crucial moment.”
Zakharchenko did not specify if the troops were on the military convoys observed by Oliphant and Walker. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the reports were fake. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu told U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel the military was not involved with the humanitarian aid to Ukraine.