The White House accused Russia of painting military vehicles to look like ordinary civilian trucks, as Ukraine claimed there was a “direct invasion” by a Russian convoy without its consent.
Caitlin Hayden, a spokesperson for the White House’s National Security Council, said on Friday that Russia was forcing its way into Ukraine. She said the move violates international law and will force additional “consequences” for Russia.
“Russia’s decision today to send in its vehicles and personnel without the [International Committee of the Red Cross] and without the express permission of the Ukrainian authorities only amplifies international concerns about Russia’s true intentions,” Hayden said in a statement.
“It is important to remember that Russia is purporting to alleviate a humanitarian situation which Russia itself created — a situation that has caused the deaths of thousands, including 300 innocent passengers of flight MH17. If Russia really wants to ease the humanitarian situation in eastern Ukraine, it could do so today by halting its supply of weapons, equipment, and fighters to its proxies. This is a flagrant violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity by Russia. Russia must remove its vehicles and its personnel from the territory of Ukraine immediately.”
In a statement earlier in the day, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said a “column of more than 100 vehicles entered Ukrainian territory without a customs inspection, without border control or International Red Cross escort.” He also accused Russia of violating international law.
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen similarly condemned the unauthorised entry. For the first time, he also accused Russia of directly intervening in Ukraine, including direct artillery support both from across the border and within Ukraine.
In her statement, Hayden said Russia has continued to maintain a “sizeable” force of combat-ready troops along the border. She also charged that Russia is providing an “ever-increasing stream” of weapons and fighters to pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine, invoking Russia’s initial denials of direct involvement in the region of Crimea as evidence they should not be trusted.
“As a result, the international community has been profoundly concerned that Russia’s actions today are nothing but a pretext for further Russian escalation of the conflict,” Hayden said. “We recall that Russia denied its military was occupying Crimea until it later admitted its military role and attempted to annex this part of Ukraine.”
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