Ukraine: 50 Russian tanks and 40 missile systems rolled into the country while Putin talked peace

PutinReutersRussia’s President Vladimir Putin (L) gestures as he takes part in peace talks on resolving the Ukrainian crisis, with Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko (R) and Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel in Minsk, February 11, 2015.

Around 50 tanks, 40 missile systems and 40 armoured vehicles crossed overnight into east Ukraine from Russia via Izvaryne border crossing into the separatist Luhansk region, a Kiev military spokesman said on Thursday.

“The enemy continues to strengthen its forces in the most dangerous areas, especially in north-east Luhansk region and in the direction of Debaltseve,” spokesman Andriy Lysenko said in a daily briefing, referring to a strategic transport hub that has been the focus of heavy fighting in recent weeks.

He said the tanks and other military hardware had crossed the border “despite statements by Russian officials about the absence of Russian military equipment and forces on Ukrainian territory.”

According to Yahoo News, senior rebel commander Eduard Basurin said separatist forces had completely encircled Ukrainian troops in Debaltseve and their only option was to surrender. He added that his side would honour the Minsk agreements.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday leaders had agreed on a deal to end fighting in eastern Ukraine.

The ceasefire is expected to come into effect on Feb. 15.

“We have managed to agree on the main issues,” Putin said.

Yesterday it was reported Ukrainian President Poroshenko and his Russian counterpart reluctantly shook hands before sitting together with Germany’s Merkel and France’s Hollande to broker the deal on Ukraine in Minsk, Belarus.

Since the fight began 10 months ago in east Ukraine, more than 5,400 people have died according to the United Nations. Ukraine blames Russia for the conflict after annexing the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea last March.

All the while, Putin continues to deny arming pro-Russian rebels in Ukraine or sending in Russian troops.

Western leaders have demanded the withdrawal of all Russian forces from Ukraine.

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This article originally appeared at Reuters. Copyright 2015. Follow Reuters on Twitter.

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