Ukraine says the key border town of Novoazovsk in southeastern Ukraine has fallen under the control of Russia’s military.
Ukraine’s Security and Defense Council made that announcement Thursday on Twitter, adding that several surrounding villages have also been seized.
Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko cancelled a visit to Turkey and called for a meeting of the Security and Defense Council to discuss the situation.
Ukrainian and Western officials have been concerned that Russia is intervening directly in the conflict in eastern Ukraine, a charge Moscow has repeatedly denied.
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe plans to hold a special meeting Thursday to discuss developments in Ukraine.
The U.S. mission to the OSCE said on Twitter that “Russian violations” in Ukraine will top the agenda at the meeting in Vienna, set for 11 a.m. local time, 0900 GMT.
French President Francois Hollande said Thursday it would be “intolerable and unacceptable” if it is determined that Russian troops are operating on Ukrainian soil.
On Wednesday, the U.S. State Department said Russia has sent more military assets into eastern Ukraine, “indicating a Russian-directed counteroffensive is likely underway” near two key rebel-held border cities.
Spokeswoman Jen Psaki cited reports of separatists shelling residential areas in the port city of Mariupol. She also said heavy fighting has erupted at the airport in the hub city of Donetsk.
Ukrainian and Western military officials are calling the incursion a “stealth invasion.”
The New York Times, reporting from southeastern Ukraine, said tanks, artillery and infantry have crossed into Ukraine from Russia at the border town of Novoazovsk in recent days.
For weeks, Western analysts have said Moscow has been aiding pro-Russian separatists who are trying to break the Ukrainian siege at rebel-held Luhansk. Officials also say separatists have been battling to open a supply corridor from the Ukraine-Russian border to nearby Donetsk.
Kyiv has repeatedly accused Moscow of arming and otherwise supporting the rebellion in Ukraine’s Russian-speaking east. Moscow continues to deny involvement.
(Screenshot from VOA)