News / Europe

Russia Forces Cross Border, Surround Strategic Ukrainian Town

  • Women rush across the street after shelling in the town of Donetsk, eastern Ukraine, Aug. 27, 2014. 
  • A local man looks on as Ukrainian servicemen pass nearby in the eastern town of Dzerzhinsk, near Donetsk, Aug. 28, 2014.
  • An armored truck with Ukrainian forces guards a checkpoint in the town of Mariupol, eastern Ukraine, Aug. 28, 2014. 
  • A Pro-Russian rebel passes by a car which was hit by shrapnel from a shell in the town of Donetsk, eastern Ukraine, Aug. 27, 2014. 
  • A police officer tries to prevent activists and relatives of Ukrainian soldiers from getting into the defense ministry building during a protest, in Kyiv, Aug. 28, 2014. 
  • Public activists and relatives of soldiers who say the soldiers are surrounded by pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine, try to get into the defense ministry building during a protest, in Kyiv, Aug. 28, 2014. 
  • Public activists and relatives of soldiers hold a banner which says stop giving away the Ukraine, in Kyiv, Aug. 28, 2014.
VOA News

President Barack Obama on Thursday pointedly pinned blame for the violence roiling eastern Ukraine on Moscow, as Russian armored vehicles backed by artillery strikes reportedly surrounded a strategic border town.

The seizure of Novoazovsk, which sits astride a major highway leading from the Russian border through southern Ukraine to the Crimean peninsula, appeared to involve both separatists and Russian forces, indicating that Moscow was backing an outright invasion of Ukrainian territory.

Watch related video report by Al Pessin:

New Russian Moves in Ukraine Challenge NATOi
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Al Pessin
August 28, 2014 9:33 PM
NATO, the United States and Ukraine say Russian forces are taking a more significant role in fighting in eastern Ukraine, bolstering separatist groups that have lost considerable ground to the government forces in recent weeks. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.

 

With NATO asserting that roughly 1,000 Russian troops were operating inside eastern Ukraine and an offensive fighting force of at least 20,000 more poised on the border, the alliance scheduled an emergency meeting for Friday. A U.S. State Department official signaled possible new sanctions against Moscow.

"Columns of heavy artillery, huge loads of arms and regular Russian servicemen came to the territory of Ukraine from Russia through the uncontrolled border area to save [rebels]," Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko told an emergency meeting of his security council.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko makes a statement, at Boryspil airport in Kyiv, Ukraine, Aug. 28, 2014.Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko makes a statement, at Boryspil airport in Kyiv, Ukraine, Aug. 28, 2014.
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Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko makes a statement, at Boryspil airport in Kyiv, Ukraine, Aug. 28, 2014.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko makes a statement, at Boryspil airport in Kyiv, Ukraine, Aug. 28, 2014.

The events prompted Poroshenko to cancel a visit to Turkey -- just two days after he and Russian President Vladimir Putin met in Belarus for negotiations to end the five-month rebellion.

​Russia's Defense Ministry denied the presence of Russia soldiers in Ukraine.

"We have noticed the launch of this informational 'canard' and are obliged to disappoint its overseas authors and their few apologists in Russia," a ministry official, Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov, was quoted as telling the Interfax news agency. "The information contained in this material bears no relation to reality."

At a White House press briefing, President Obama refrained from calling Russian actions an invasion, and he made clear that the U.S. was not planning military action against Russia.

"I consider the actions that we've seen in the last week a continuation of what's been taking place for months now," Obama said. "The separatists are backed, trained, armed, financed by Russia. Russia determined that it had to be a little more overt in what it had already been doing, but it's not really a shift."

"I think it is very important to recognize that a military solution to this problem is not going to be forthcoming," he said.

At an emergency session U.N. Security Council Thursday, a top U.N. official said the world body could not verify the latest reports of a Russian invasion. However, Undersecretary-General of Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman said the latest developments mark a "dangerous escalation in the conflict.''

U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power angrily accused Russia of outright deception.

Russia "has manipulated. It has obfuscated. It has outright lied," she was quoted by news agencies as saying.

NATO Images

Novoazovsk, UkraineNovoazovsk, Ukraine
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Novoazovsk, Ukraine
Novoazovsk, Ukraine

A senior NATO official told reporters that well over 1,000 Russian troops were now operating inside Ukraine.

"They are supporting separatists [and] fighting with them," he said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Alliance officials released satellite images Thursday it said showed Russian combat forces engaged in operations in Ukraine. The images, taken recently, also depicted Russian artillery units moving in a convoy and then establishing firing positions near the southeastern town of Krasnodon.

Western media have reported columns of heavy equipment, APCs and even tanks driving toward Novoazovsk, many without clear identifying marks. Given the geography of Ukraine's southeast border and given that rebels were not known to possess heavy weaponry, all indications were that it came from Russia.

Image 1 shows Russian military units moving in a convoy formation with self-propelled artillery in the area of Krasnodon, Ukraine, well inside territory controlled by Russian separatists. Image captured Aug. 21, 2014. There is confidence the equipment is Russian, since Ukrainian units have not yet penetrated this far into separatist controlled territory.
Image 1 shows Russian military units moving in a convoy formation with self-propelled artillery in the area of Krasnodon, Ukraine, well inside territory controlled by Russian separatists. Image captured Aug. 21, 2014. There is confidence the equipment is Russian, since Ukrainian units have not yet penetrated this far into separatist controlled territory.

Officials in the rebel-held eastern city of Donetsk, to the north of Novoazovsk, said 15 civilians were killed in fighting Thursday.

More than 2,200 people have been killed in the conflict since it erupted in April following Russia's blitzkrieg occupation and annexation of the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea. 

Multiple Fronts

A spokesman for Ukraine's national security council, Col. Andriy Lysenko, said there was increased pressure from Russia coming from different directions.

"We are talking about several columns numbering tens of units of armored vehicles, that are confirmed to be the vehicles of the military forces of Russian Federation," he told VOA.

The developments near Novoazovsk, which sits on the Sea of Azov, have raised concerns that Moscow wants to create a land link between Russia and Crimea, which Russia annexed in March. Currently, Russia's only surface links with Crimea is via a creaky ferry service plying the Kerch Strait.

In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki suggested that the White House was considering harsher sanctions beyond those imposed over the past few months.

"`It is clear that Russia has not only stepped up its presence in eastern Ukraine and intervened directly with combat forces, armored vehicles, artillery, and surface-to-air systems, and is actively fighting Ukrainian forces as well as playing a direct supporting role to the separatists proxies and mercenaries,'' Psaki told a media briefing.

"We have a range of tools at our disposal,'' she said. Increased sanctions on Russia were "the most effective tool, the best tool.''

The sanctions imposed to date by Washington and European allies have cut off access to Western financial credit and some modern technology for oil and gas development, measures that have hurt Russia's oil-dependent economy.

Ukraine's ambassador to the European Union urged Western allies to provide "large-scale" military support to confront the growing threat. Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk was quoted as saying that the United States and Europe "to freeze Russian assets and finances until Russia withdraws armed forces, equipment and agents."

Putin may be satisfied with some sort of long-term influence in Ukraine, though that might be too much for Poroshenko, according to Nick Witney, a former British diplomat now at the European Council on Foreign Relations.

“The way out is, in the short term, a truce, a ceasefire, and ultimately some sort of political deal or understanding, which unfortunately will have to recognize that Russia does have more of an interest in Ukraine than we in the West do," he said.

Xenia Wickett, a senior analyst at the London think-tank Chatham House, said the West is not likely to provide much help.

“NATO has actually kind of tripped over itself. By putting out very clear ‘red lines,’ it has actually got itself in a bind because Russia knows it can walk right up to those red lines but not cross them, without a NATO response,” she said.

VOA's Al Pessin in London, Gabe Joselow in Kyiv and Jeff Seldin at the Pentagon contributed to this report. Additional information was provided by Reuters, The Associated Press and Agence France-Presse.

 

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by: Alex from: Russia
August 29, 2014 4:23 AM
Dear Americans and people of other countries, whose borders are located far away from Russia. The police of the World, in a word! I think for all would be better if you will remain in your place, and do not stick your nose where do not ask. Then nowhere, never will be war, how this is in Ukraine, Syria, Iraq now, how been Vietnam, Afghanistan. The your border is not in danger. Solve your problems. We will be solve problem with our border. And to all on this earth will be well.
I ask your very well think above that if Russia with their weapons will be Interfere in the affairs of each country, what will happen?
I hope no one is offended on my word. Thank you.


by: David from: USA
August 29, 2014 2:04 AM
USA and EU members of NATO should start mutual military drillings on Ukraine's soil. It is only the way to stop Russia!!!


by: michael from: odessa; ukraine
August 29, 2014 1:32 AM
There's nothing different happening in Ukraine than what has been happening for months. Putin is a liar with KGB mentality and a very strong communist mentality. Putin and everyone in the world knows Mr Obama us a terribly weak leader. The best thing that has happened to Russia is the election of Obama. People of the world had great hopes for obama but he certainly destroyed himself and the credibility of the USA. SANCTIONS mean nothing to Russia and Putin will continue his course of action until he has a road to Crimea. He continues to laugh at Obama and has zero respect for him or the USA. I implore you Mr Obama please resign , go to you 35 million dollar home in Hawaii and let the USA heal from your terrible policies and bad judgement


by: TRAN HOA from: Viet Nam
August 29, 2014 12:57 AM
I think Russia should have invaded Ukraine long ago to prevent those Kiev pirates from killing russian speaking people in the East. The West will dare not to intervine in Ukraine militarily because they will face fatal destruction. Those who are always invading so many countries like the US, the UK has no right to speak about freedom and democracy at all.


by: Joseph Effiong from: Uyo - nigeria
August 29, 2014 12:01 AM
I am deeply disappointed by US, EU, UN and NATO. All are watching what russia in doing in Ukraine as if nothing is happening. A young sovereign nation that says they don't want to remain under russia's bondage , will soon be no more on the world map because russia will annex it while the world is watching. It caused me to shed tears. Reading or listening to news is of no use to me . But God will fight for Ukraine since there is no one to help them. When israel defended itself against terrorists, EU , usa Presbyterian church and many nations where singing boycott, divesment and sanctions against this small Jewish tribe that struggle to survive. And now russia is taking over ukraine ...... I am asking where are these nations concerning Ukraine.


by: Observer from: Southeastasia
August 28, 2014 11:36 PM
When and where the US retreats, it is not suprising that another superpower will advance and occupy. This is the logical rule of the world game. Obama knows it, doesn't he?


by: Sunny Enwerem from: Lagos Nigeria
August 28, 2014 10:48 PM
Sanctions should be increased 100% and Russian citizens should be totally barred from traveling to other western nations till Putin pulls back from all territories.


by: Mark from: Virginia
August 28, 2014 9:26 PM
I should change my name to History Repeats...I seem to say that a lot, lately...here is another slice of history that America has failed to learn....
Summer of 1941. America imposes embargoes (sanctions) against Japan for its action in China and the atrocities committed by Japanese troops there.. Tokyo talks peace while preparing for war. The Japanese warlords give the politicians a time limit to ease the embargoes (especially oil) or its navy will not have the fuel to leave port. Its either step down and suffer loss of honor, or seize the raw materials it needs. But, one obstacle stands in their way...the American Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor. We know the result there....
Sanctions (embargoes) put the pressure on the Japanese and they chose war. Sanctions by the West is putting pressure on Moscow, and they too, seem to be choosing war.

History...history...history....repeats itself.


by: Mark from: Virginia
August 28, 2014 7:26 PM
harsher sanctions to Russia....like that has been working so far. Putin's tanks and artillery will roll right over those sanctions. This is all gearing up for a full-scale war between Moscow and Kyiv, and America will keep flinging sanctions at them. That's showing 'em...


by: Reha from: Britain
August 28, 2014 3:05 PM
Russia must be punished as severe as possible or we will have a problem... Ukrainians want to be a part of west.

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