US General Philip Breedlove, NATO’s top commander, said the organization witnessed more Russian troops move into Ukraine. Russia continues to deny sending troops to Ukraine, but evidence over the last nine months quash these denials.
“Across the last two days we have seen the same thing that OSCE is reporting. We have seen columns of Russian equipment, primarily Russian tanks, Russian artillery, Russian air defence systems and Russian combat troops entering into Ukraine,” Breedlove said on Wednesday. “We do not have a good picture at this time of how many. We agree that there are multiple columns that we have seen.”
Ukraine and pro-Russian rebels in the east agreed to a ceasefire in September, but tensions continue to rise. NATO has intercepted Russian jets over 100 times in 2014, which is three times more than their total in 2013. On November 7, Russia sent 32 tanks, 16 howitzer cannons, and 30 trucks with Russian troops into the Luhansk region in Ukraine.
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) reported on Tuesday there is no evidence to suggest the ceasefire is working. They witnessed new Russian convoys into Ukraine on November 9. That same day, Donetsk, a city and region occupied by the rebels, observed its worse shelling since April. The heavy shelling continues on Wednesday.
However, this revelation by NATO and OSCE is nothing new. It all started in March when Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine. The Ukrainian government started an anti-terrorist operation (ATO) in April in an attempt to recapture the east after rebels declared independence from the new pro-European government in Kiev. This is when Russia moved troops closer to Ukraine. Satellite images showed over 40,000 Russian troops on the Russia-Ukraine border in mid-May.
On May 25, Ukraine held a presidential election. The pro-Russians did not allow citizens in the east to vote. Ukraine received a new president, but the world also received evidence that Russian troops were in the east. Bojan Pancevski with The London Times said troops from early May “were motley crew with crap guns,” but the new “rebels” on May 25 were “better armed, different, look more professional.” Christopher Miller with The Kyiv Post said the men spoke Chechen and the weapons were clean. The leader of the group even told the pro-Russian supporters they were sent from Chechnya by their leader Ramzan Kadyrov, who is very friendly with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
In June, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov admitted Russia is helping the pro-Russians in the east. He said Moscow sends “humanitarian aid,” but did not offer specifications. One rebel leader said the aid included military equipment.
“Humanitarian aid from Russia has finally reached Slovyansk yesterday,” Girkin wrote on social media. “Our special thanks for bulletproof helmets (see photo, green, brand new, gleaming) of a high degree of protection. This is exactly what our guys are missing when they crawl in the trenches under a sniper fire.”
On that same day, Ukrainian troops stopped three Russian tanks in Snizhne, which is near Donetsk.
“Tonight, three T-72 tanks crossed Ukraine’s state border from Russia. One tank is in the town of Snizhne. Two other tanks moved out of the town. In the vicinity of Snizhne these tanks were intercepted by Ukrainian troops. The fight is ongoing. There are reports that a Russian T-72 was hit,” said Interior Minister Arsen Avakov.
Ukraine reported the rebels shot down Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 with a Buk M provided to them from Russia. Almost 300 innocent civilians from NATO and European Union countries died on that flight.
“The SBU (Security Service of Ukraine) and the Interior Ministry have collected and continue to collect irrefutable evidence and proof that point to the authors of this tragedy from the terrorist organization DNR/LNR (Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republic), and their Russian, Putinist masters,” said Ukraine Interior Minister Arsen Avakov.
“The data we have allow us to state that the plane Boeing 777 was shot down by the Donetsk terrorists with the use of anti-missile system Buk M, which was transferred from Russia’s territory,” the State Security Service said in a statement.