For months, Russia has provided Russian separatist with heavy equipment in the form of tanks, armored vehicles, artillery, and multiple rocket launchers. Air defense systems have also been provided to separatists, even following the downing of Malaysian airlines flight MH17. The situation in Ukraine touches both Europe and the wider international community and this is a matter of grave and global concern.
Today NATO has released satellite imagery taken on 21 and 23 August of Russian self-propelled artillery units inside Ukraine in the vicinity of Krasnodon in Luhansk province. The satellite images provide additional evidence that Russian combat soldiers, equipped with sophisticated heavy weaponry, are operating inside Ukraine¨s sovereign territory.
This is one example of the multiple encampments that Russia has positioned near its border with Eastern Ukraine. A new offensive in south east Ukraine in what Ukrainian diplomats and some EU foreign minsters, such as Carl Bildt have called an “hidden invasion” and second Russian invasion of Ukraine within a year. (Sweden´s foreign minister, is a possibility for the EU HR foreign-policy post.)
NATO believes this activity is being conducted in direct support to forces operating inside Ukraine, and is part of a highly coordinated and destabilising strategy.
The UK´s UN Ambassador Mark Lyall Crant reeled off evidence of Russia´s increasing military presence in Ukraine, at UNSC, saying “Russia can no longer pretend that it is not a direct party to this conflict. This conflict would no linger exist without direct russian military involvement in support of the separatists”.
These words were echoed at a snap meeting of the UN Security council in New York. Out of the 15 UNSC members all but one Russia condemn the recent military escalation. Russia has also moved significant numbers of combat aircraft and helicopters to airfields along the border. Russian unmanned aircraft routinely cross into Ukrainian airspace. Many of these forces are deployed within a few kilometers of Ukraine, and are capable of attacking with little warning, and could potentially overwhelm and push-back Ukrainian units.
Also released were images showing substantial activity inside Russia in areas adjacent to the border with Ukraine. As, noted by US ambassador to the UN, “the most important question is what we should do to make Russia listen”.
Russia should explain what its military plans are. It is simply not credible for Russia and its proxies in Donets and Luhansk to keep claiming that these serving members of the Russian armed forces are in Ukraine by accident or on holiday.