NATO has accused Russia of sending tanks, artillery and troops into eastern Ukraine to help the separatist forces there, a charge which Moscow has denied as “unfounded”.
“We have seen columns of Russian equipment, primarily Russian tanks, Russian artillery, Russian air defense systems and Russian combat troops entering into Ukraine,” US General Philip Breedlove, NATO’s commander in Europe, said in Sofia on Wednesday, according to Agence France-Presse.
“We do not have a good picture at this time of how many. We agree that there are multiple columns that we have seen,” he was quoted as saying.
Moscow rejected the claims, with its deputy ambassador to the United Nations telling an emergency Security Council meeting that the alliance was making “another foray into propaganda.”
The claims come amid growing fears of a return to all-out conflict despite a two-month ceasefire which has stopped much frontline fighting but not shelling at strategic flashpoints.
The United States warned it was ready to work with allies in Europe to slap more sanctions on Russia for supporting pro-Moscow separatists in east Ukraine, who have been battling Kiev since April.
Ukraine’s Defense Minister Stepan Poltorak said Kiev was preparing for a possible new round of fighting after seeing “increased activity” by Russia and pro-Moscow rebels in the east.
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