Russia has “well over 1,000 troops” operating inside Ukraine, Nato warned on Thursday, as Moscow faced an intensifying backlash over growing evidence of its direct military involvement in the former Soviet country’s uprising in the east.
Dutch Brigadier General Nico Tak, commander of Nato’s crisis operations centre said that the Russian military was transferring air defence systems, artillery, tanks and armoured personnel carriers to separatists in eastern Ukraine. Nato satellite images seen by the FT appeared to corroborate this.
“There’s a severe escalation,” he said. “The satellite imagery released today presents additional evidence Russian combat soldiers equipped with heavy weapons are operating inside Ukraine.”
Gen Tak said Moscow’s moves were an attempt to prevent a defeat of the pro-Russian separatists, adding that the estimate of troops inside Ukraine was a conservative one. He said there were about 20,000 Russian troops amassed at the border with Ukraine and that the troops were “far more capable than what we saw in March . . . an offensive army”.