Russia accused of supporting Ukrainian rebels' advance

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Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Yesterday Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko accused Russia of "direct and open aggression" as his country's military were said to be battling a column of Russian tanks.

Coastline of the Azov sea
Image: Materialscientist.

Ukraine's military has suffered recent setbacks in their ongoing conflict with pro-Russian rebels in the East of the country which started in April, following the annexation of Crimea by Russian forces.

Officials in Kiev said armored Russian units aided rebels who took the Ukrainian border town of Novoazovsk last week, and were reportedly yesterday threatening the strategic port of Mariupol, where residents were digging trenches against the possibility of an attack. The area of Novoazovsk and Mariupol lies between the Russian border and Crimea.

Ukrainian coastguards reportedly searched for two missing sailors after artillery hit their patrol boat in the Sea of Azov on Sunday, in what rebels reportedly called their first victory at sea. Eight other sailors were rescued, and were being treated for burns and other wounds. Officials said it was as yet unclear where the shell was fired from.

Russia denied any of their troops were involved in the conflict. NATO said last week at least 1,000 Russian troops have been sent into the country and have been fighting alongside the rebels there. They also accused Russia of supplying the rebels with military hardware, including air defense systems and tanks.

In response to the alleged increase of Russian involvement, European Union (EU) leaders threatened Russia with further sanctions, extending those first imposed in July, if they did not back down from their involvement in Ukraine.

Russian President Vladmir Putin has dismissed the threat, claiming the EU is backing an armed coup in Ukraine against the former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych.