Russian Tank Convoy Unconfirmed, Still Risks Fragile Peace In Ukraine

On Friday, government officials accused Russia of sending tanks and troops into Ukraine in violation of the September 5 cease-fire. Although the allegations fall in line with recent Russian belligerence, Ukrainian officials have not provided any evidence for the encroachment, or even how the authorities knew about it deep in rebel territory. Nevertheless, if confirmed, the new weapons could escalate violence in the region.

As previously reported by the Inquisitr, Ukraine claims that the Russian convoy included 32 tanks, 16 howitzer cannons, and 30 trucks full of equipment and troops. The tanks allegedly entered Ukraine’s Luhansk region, currently being controlled by rebel forces.

Ukraine also said that five of its servicemen were recently killed in clashes with separatist fighters.

NATO also has little to say about the convoy, as the alliance could not make a confirmation. An officer speaking anonymously to the AP could only comment on hypotheticals. “If this crossing into Ukraine is confirmed, it would be further evidence of Russia’s aggression and direct involvement in destabilizing Ukraine.”

NATO did issue a statement confirming a troop build-up at the Ukrainian-Russian border.

“We can confirm a recent increase in Russian troops and equipment along the eastern border of Ukraine. Russia continues to demonstrate its lack of regard for international agreements and its determination to further destabilize Ukraine.”

According to the BBC, Russia has declined to comment on the incursion, although the Defense Ministry did deny allegations of a troop build-up on Friday.

There have also been no photos or eyewitness accounts of the tanks appearing on social media.

Still, even if the tank convoy never existed, tensions are at a breaking point.

Last Sunday, rebel authorities in Donetsk and Luhansk held leadership elections. The Ukrainian government called the elections illegal and started to physically and financially cut-off the regions. They also revoked a law that would have given the areas partial autonomy, claiming that the elections effectively tore up the peace agreement.

The rebels flipped that script, saying it was the government that destroyed the peace by annulling the special autonomy.

Russia’s state-controlled RIA Novosti news agency reported that rebel leader Andrei Purgin said the government in Kiev has started an “all-out war” against the separatists fighters.

Russia is attempting to sit on the fence. The BBC says Russian officials recognized the elections as legitimate, but the New York Times claims that they “respected” the elections, which does not amount to recognition.

Nevertheless, if the Kremlin did send in a tank convoy, it could be called an implicit recognition and approval of the new leadership, much to the aggravation of Ukraine.

[Image: Russian Tigrs, UAZ and Kamaz trucks near Ukrainian military base in Perevalne, Credit: Anton Holoborodko/Wikimedia Commons]