Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said on Thursday that Russian forces had entered his country and the military conflict was worsening after Russian-backed separatists swept into a key town in the east.
Poroshenko said he was cancelling a visit to Turkey and conferring with defense chiefs because of the “rapidly deteriorating situation” in the eastern Donetsk region, “as Russian troops have actually been brought into Ukraine”.
A NATO military officer said: “We assess well over 1,000 Russian troops are now operating inside Ukraine… They are supporting separatists (and) fighting with them.”
Russia says it has no involvement in the conflict between pro-Moscow rebels and the Ukrainian military, in which more than 2,200 people have been killed since April.
It denies sending in weapons or troops, despite the capture of 11 soldiers inside Ukraine this week who Moscow said had probably crossed the border by accident. Russia’s envoy to the OSCE security forum in Vienna said no Russian forces were crossing the Ukrainian border “at any point”.