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Thu, 28 Aug 2014 13:33:07 +0000
(KIEV, Ukraine) -- Ukraine’s president called an emergency meeting of the nation’s security council and canceled a foreign trip Thursday because of what he described as a “Russian invasion,” with rebel forces opening up a new front in the conflict.
Heavy fighting was reported in the southeast of Ukraine near the town of Novoazovsk.
Petro Poroshenko canceled a visit to Turkey for the inauguration of newly elected president Recep Tayyip Erdogan and called a snap session of Ukraine's security council.
"I have decided to cancel my visit to Turkey because of the sharp escalation of the situation in the Donetsk region ... as Russian forces have entered Ukraine," he said.
Control of the area would give Russia a direct land corridor between Russia and the Crimean peninsula. The maneuver points to long-term strategic planning by Russia, a spokesman for the Ukrainian anti-terrorist command told ABC News.
Colonel Konstantin Hivrenko, spokesman for the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense, said Ukraine has “proof beyond any doubt” that Russian troops are now directly involved in the fighting.
“There are now steady and large-scale deliveries of Russian hardware. Armored convoys are crossing the border day and night,” he said. The Ukrainian Ministry of Defense also claims there are “uncountable” Russian tanks and artillery pieces at the Ukrainian border.
Ukrainian troops have been battling against separatist rebel forces in the region since April.
Prime Minister Donald Tusk told the Polish parliament that NATO had concrete proof of Russian troops operating on the territory of Ukraine. In a phone call early Thursday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel demanded an explanation from Russian President Vladimir Putin. French President Francois Hollande called a news conference Thursday morning saying that Russian incursions into Ukraine were “intolerable.”
The prime minister of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, Alexander Zakharchenko, told Russian TV that 3,000 to 4,000 Russian soldiers were supporting the rebels.
“We have never hidden from anyone that there are many Russians amongst us,” he said. “Without their help, we would have struggled and it would have been more difficult to fight.”
In reaction to Russia’s continuing military build-up on NATO’s eastern flank, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen announced the preparation of a Readiness Action Plan. In an interview with German newspaper Suedduetsche Zeitung, Rasmussen said NATO would form a quick reaction force to counter a possible Russian threat to countries on NATO’s eastern border.
Ukrainian PM Arseny Yatseniuk appealed to the United Nations to call a Security Council meeting in response to "growing military threat from Russia."
“Putin started a war in Europe,” he said.
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