Newspaper article International New York Times

NATO Reports Russian Troops in Ukraine ; U.S. General's Assertion of Border Crossing Draws Strong Denials in Moscow

Newspaper article International New York Times

NATO Reports Russian Troops in Ukraine ; U.S. General's Assertion of Border Crossing Draws Strong Denials in Moscow

Article excerpt

The assertion drew stern and dismissive denials from Moscow, which for months has denied any military intervention in eastern Ukraine.

Tanks and other military vehicles towing heavy weapons pouring over the border from Russia into eastern Ukraine. Nightly artillery battles in the region's biggest city, Donetsk, and reports of fighting around another regional capital.

And now, sightings of the "green men," professional soldiers in green uniforms without insignia, the same type of forces that carried out the invasion of Crimea in the spring.

A senior NATO official confirmed on Wednesday what Ukrainian military officials and monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe have been saying for days now: Russian troops and military equipment are crossing the border into Ukraine, seemingly preparing for renewed military action, though what exactly remains unclear.

The assertion drew stern and dismissive denials from Moscow, which for months has denied any military intervention in eastern Ukraine, though it has acknowledged publicly that Russian "volunteers" have crossed into Ukraine to support the separatists.

In light of the recent developments, Western officials finally seemed ready to acknowledge that a cease-fire agreement signed in September had fallen apart, and that the threat to peace in Europe had returned in a possibly more virulent form.

The official, Gen. Philip Breedlove, NATO's military commander, said the alliance was "concerned about convoys of trucks taking artillery and supplies into east Ukraine from Russia." He said there were increased numbers of Russian forces training militants in eastern Ukraine, including in the use of sophisticated weaponry.

"Across the last two days we have seen the same thing that O.S.C.E. is reporting," General Breedlove said at a news conference in Sofia, Bulgaria. "We have seen columns of Russian equipment, primarily Russian tanks, Russian artillery, Russian air-defense systems and Russian combat troops entering into Ukraine."

The full scope of the Russian incursion was not clear, he said.

Russia forcefully denied that any of its troops or equipment had crossed into eastern Ukraine, and a government spokesman dismissed General Breedlove as unreliable and "alarmist. …

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