Russia has emplaced army artillery units manned by Russian personnel inside Ukraine and is firing at Ukrainian military units. NATO officials averred the report on August 22. This is the first time NATO has announced that it had evidence of the direct involvement of the Russian military in the fighting between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russia separatists. Currently, Ukraine is fighting a pitched battle with the separatists in the eastern cities of Luhansk and Donetsk. The former has been without water, electricity or phone services for nearly two weeks. This report came on the same day that a convoy of Russian trucks, ostensibly carrying only humanitarian supplies, crossed from Russia into Ukraine without official permission from the government in Kyiv.
A statement from the Ukrainian government concurred that Russian artillery support — both cross-border and from within Ukraine — is being employed against the Ukrainian armed forces.
The artillery barrage, and the still mysterious nature of the aid convoy, represents a significant escalation of Russia’s involvement in the fighting. Earlier this year, Russian forces invaded the Crimean region of Ukraine and secure the naval base there and petroleum deposits. Responding to the incursion of the Russian truck convoy, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said in a statement, “I condemn the entry of a Russian so-called humanitarian convoy into Ukrainian territory without the consent of the Ukrainian authorities and without any involvement of the International Committee of the Red Cross. This is a blatant breach of Russia’s international commitments, including those made recently in Berlin and Geneva, and a further violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty by Russia. It can only deepen the crisis in the region, which Russia itself has created and has continued to fuel. The disregard of international humanitarian principles raises further questions about whether the true purpose of the aid convoy is to support civilians or to resupply armed separatists.”
Rasmussen was explicit in scoring Russia for the invasion. “These developments are even more worrying as they coincide with a major escalation in Russian military involvement in Eastern Ukraine since mid-August, including the use of Russian forces. In addition, Russian artillery support – both cross-border and from within Ukraine – is being employed against the Ukrainian armed forces. We have also seen transfers of large quantities of advanced weapons, including tanks, armoured personnel carriers, and artillery to separatist groups in Eastern Ukraine. Moreover, NATO is observing an alarming build-up of Russian ground and air forces in the vicinity of Ukraine.” Finally, Rasmussen said, “Instead of de-escalating the situation, Russia continues to escalate it, despite the efforts of the international community to find a political solution to the crisis.”
Earlier in August , NATO began receiving reports of the direct involvement of Russian forces in the fighting in Ukraine, “including Russian airborne, air defense and special operations forces in Eastern Ukraine,” said Oana Lungescu, a spokeswoman for NATO. In the Crimea incursion, Russian troops bore no regimental or other military badges, and also disguised their vehicles.
Fighting in Donetsk on August 20 resulted in significant damage. The mayor’s office claims that 43 people killed in little more than a day..
Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko has accused Russia of a "flagrant violation of international law" after the Russian so-called humanitarian aid trucks entered his country without permission. So far on August 22, more than 100 Russian trucks have entered Ukraine without customs clearance or Red Cross involvement. The trucks are being escorted by armed pro-Russia rebels. The first trucks have reached rebel-held Luhansk.
Russia had threatened Ukraine with unspecified consequences in the event that the aid convoy to the eastern zone be deterred. Russia had accused Ukraine of unreasonable obstruction and sent the convoy in. Ukraine's security chief Valentyn Nalyvaychenko said it was a "direct invasion" but said no military force would be used against the convoy since Ukraine wishes to avoid "provocations".
Spero News editor Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. He is also a freelance translator.