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On 24 July, the American government stated that it had evidence that the Russian military was firing on Ukrainian territory from across the border. A spokesman for the US Department of Defence stated that there was "no question" as to Russia's involvement in the attacks on Ukrainian Armed

On 24 July, the American government stated that it had evidence that the Russian military was firing on Ukrainian territory from across the border. A spokesman for the US Department of Defence stated that there was "no question" as to Russia's involvement in the attacks on Ukrainian Armed Forces.[231] On 28 July, it published satellite photos showing heavy artillery shelling Ukrainian positions from Russian territory.[12] On 27 July, U.S. officials confirmed Russia had shelled Ukrainian territory.[232] At the time, Russian government spokesman denied these allegations.[233]

The shelling escalated at least one week prior to the invasion.[234] According t

The shelling escalated at least one week prior to the invasion.[234] According to NATO reports, Russian military shelled Ukrainian positions across the border from mid-August, and by 22 August, Russian artillery and personnel had crossed the border into Ukraine itself.[235][236]

In early August, according to Igor Strelkov, Russian servicemen, supposedly on "vacation" from the army, began to arrive in Donbass.[237]

On 13 August, members of the Russian Human Rights Commission stated that over 100 Russian soldiers had been killed in the fighting in Ukraine and inquired why they were there.[238]

A convoy of military vehicles, including armoured personnel carriers, with

On 13 August, members of the Russian Human Rights Commission stated that over 100 Russian soldiers had been killed in the fighting in Ukraine and inquired why they were there.[238]

A convoy of military vehicles, including armoured personnel carriers, with official Russian military plates crossed into Ukraine near the militant-controlled Izvaryne border crossing on 14 August.[239][240] The Ukrainian government later announced that they had destroyed most of the armoured column with artillery. Secretary General of NATO Anders Fogh Rasmussen said this incident was a "clear demonstration of continued Russian involvement in the destabilisation of eastern Ukraine".[241] The same day, Russian President Vladimir Putin, speaking to Russian ministers and Crimean parliamentarians on a visit to Crimea, undertook to do everything he could to end the conflict in Ukraine, saying Russia needed to build calmly and with dignity, not by confrontation and war which isolated it from the rest of the world. The comments came as international sanctions against Russia were being stepped up.[242]

On 22 August 2014, according to NATO officials, Russia moved self-propelled artillery onto the territory of Ukraine.[235]

On 24 August 2014, President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko referred to the conflict as Ukraine's "Patriotic War of 2014" and a war against "external aggression".[243][full citation needed] The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine labeled the conflict an invasion on 27 August 2014.[244]

On 26 August 2014, a mixed column composed of at least 3 T-72B1s and a lone T-72BM was identified on a video from Sverdlovsk, Ukraine by the International Institute for Strategic Studies. The sighting undermined Russia's attempts to maintain plausible deniability over the issue of supplying tanks and other arms to the separatists. Russia continuously claimed that any tanks operated by the separatists must have been captured from Ukraine's own army. The T-72BM is in service with the Russian Army in large numbers. This modernized T-72 is not known to have been exported to nor operated by any other country.[245] Reuters found other tanks of this type near Horbatenko in October.[246] In November, the United Kingdom's embassy in Ukraine also published an infographic demonstrating specific features of the T-72 tanks used by separatists not present in tanks held by Ukrainian army, addressing it to "help Russia recognize its own tanks".[247] The equipment included for example Thales Optronics thermal vision instruments exported to Russia between 2007 and 2012 only.[248]

On 27 August, two columns of Russian tanks entered Ukrainian territory in support of the pro-Russian separatists in Donetsk and Luhansk and engaged Ukrainian border forces, but US officials were reluctant to declare that Russia had begun invading Ukraine.[249] NATO officials stated that over 1,000 Russian troops were operating inside Ukraine, but termed the incident an incursion rather than an invasion.[250] The Russian government denied these claims. NATO published satellite photos which it said showed the presence of Russian troops within Ukrainian territory.[238] The pro-Russian separatists admitted that Russian troops were fighting alongside them, stating that this was "no secret", but that the Russian troops were just soldiers who preferred to take their vacations fighting in Ukraine rather than "on the beach". The Prime Minister of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic stated that 3,000 to 4,000 Russian troops had fought in separatist ranks and that most of them had not returned to Russia, having continued to fight in Ukraine.[251]

On 28 August, members of the commission called the presence of Russian troops on Ukrainian soil "an outright invasion".[252] The same day, Ukraine ordered national mandatory conscription.[253]

In late August, NATO released satellite images which it considered to be evidence of Russian operations inside Ukraine with sophisticated weaponry,[254] and after the setbacks[76] of Ukrainian forces by early September, it was evident Russia had sent soldiers and armour across the border and locals acknowledged the role of Putin and Russian soldiers in effecting a reversal of fortunes.[33][73][74][255][256]

The 76th Guards Air Assault Division based in Pskov allegedly entered Ukrainian territory in August and engaged in a skirmish near Luhansk, suffering 80 dead. The Ukrainian Defense Ministry said that they had seized two of the unit's armoured vehicles near Luhansk city, and reported about another three tanks and two armoured vehicles of pro-Russian forces destroyed in other regions.[258][259] The Russian government denied the skirmish took place.[259]

Around 29–30 August, Russian tanks destroyed "virtually every house" in Novosvitlivka, a suburb village of Luhansk, according to Ukrainian military spokesman Andriy Lysenko.[260]

On 18 August, the 76th Guards Air Assault Division was awarded with Order of Suvorov, one of Russia's highest awards, by Russian minister of defence Sergey Shoigu for the "successful completion of military missions" and "courage and heroism".[259] Russian media highlighted that the medal is awarded exclusively for combat operations and reported that a large number of soldiers from this division had died in Ukraine just days before, but their burials were conducted in secret.[261][262][263] Some Russian media, such as Pskovskaya Guberniya,[264] reported that Russian paratroopers may have been killed in Ukraine. Journalists traveled to Pskov, the reported burial location of the troops, to investigate. Multiple reporters said they had been attacked or threatened there, and that the attackers erased sev

Around 29–30 August, Russian tanks destroyed "virtually every house" in Novosvitlivka, a suburb village of Luhansk, according to Ukrainian military spokesman Andriy Lysenko.[260]

On 18 August, the 76th Guards Air Assault Division was awarded with Order of Suvorov, one of Russia's highest awards, by Russian minister of defence Sergey Shoigu for the "successful completion of military missions" and "courage and heroism".[259] Russian media highlighted that the medal is awarded exclusively for combat operations and reported that a large number of soldiers from this division had died in Ukraine just days before, but their burials were conducted in secret.[261][262][263] Some Russian media, such as Pskovskaya Guberniya,[264] reported that Russian paratroopers may have been killed in Ukraine. Journalists traveled to Pskov, the reported burial location of the troops, to investigate. Multiple reporters said they had been attacked or threatened there, and that the attackers erased several camera memory cards.[265] Pskovskaya Guberniya revealed transcripts of phone conversations between Russian soldiers being treated in a Pskov hospital for wounds received while fighting in Ukraine. The soldiers reveal that they were sent to the war, but told by their officers that they were going on "an exercise".[266][267]

A Bellingcat contributor published a series of investigations revealing the involvement of the Russian Northern Fleet Coastal troops units, 200th Motor Rifle Brigade and 61st Naval Infantry Brigade, which had participated in combats in Luhansk region: Troops of the 200th Motor Rifle Brigade fought in a battle of Luhansk Airport,[268][269] and later in October in clashes for 32nd checkpoint.[270] Marines of the 61st Naval Infantry Brigade were spotted in Luhansk and took part in fights in villages nearby.[271]

On 24 August 2014, Amvrosiivka was occupied by Russian paratroopers,[272] supported by 250 armoured vehicles and artillery pieces.[273] Ten Russian paratroopers of the 331st Guards Airborne Regiment, military unit 71211 from Kostroma, were captured in Dzerkalne that day, a village near Amvrosiivka, 20 kilometres (12 mi) from the border,[274] after their armored vehicles were hit by Ukrainian artillery. On 25 August, the Security Service of Ukraine reported about the captured paratroopers, claiming they've crossed Ukrainian border in the night of 23 August.[275] The SBU also released their photos and names.[276] The next day, the Russian Ministry of Defence said that they had crossed the border "by accident".[274][277] On 31 August, the Russian media reported that ten Russian paratroopers captured inside Ukraine had returned home following a troop exchange. The 64 Ukrainian troops provided in exchange were captured after entering Russia to escape the upsurge in fighting.[278] Russia claimed that the Russian troops had mistakenly crossed an unmarked area of the border while on patrol.[279] Ukraine released videos of captured Russian soldiers which challenged Russia's claim that it had nothing to do with the conflict.[280]

On 29 August, after Ukrainian forces agreed to surrender Ilovaisk, they were bombarded by Russian forces while they evacuated through a "green corridor." The assault on the troops who were marked with white flags was variously described as a "massacre."[33]Ilovaisk, they were bombarded by Russian forces while they evacuated through a "green corridor." The assault on the troops who were marked with white flags was variously described as a "massacre."[33][281][282][283][284][285] At least 100 were killed.[281]

According to Bellingcat, Russian military vehicles crossing the border of Ukraine and artillery positions close to the Ukrainian borders are clearly visible on satellite photos from 23 August 2014.[286]

On 25 August, a column of Russian tanks and military vehicles was reported to have crossed into Ukraine in the southeast, near the town of Novoazovsk located on the Azov sea coast, and headed towards Ukrainian-held Mariupol,[287][288][289][290][291] in an area that had not seen pro-Russian presence for weeks.[292] The Bellingcat's investigation reveals some details of this operation.[293] Russian forces captured the city of Novoazovsk.[294] and Russian soldiers began arresting and deporting to unknown locations all Ukrainians who did not have an address registered within the town.[295] Pro-Ukrainian anti-war protests took place in Mariupol which was threatened by Russian troops.[295][296] The UN Security Council called an emergency meeting to discuss the situation.[297]

On 3 September, a Sky News team filmed groups of troops near Novoazovsk wearing modern combat gear typical for Russian units and traveling in new military vehicles with number plates and other markings removed. Specialists consulted by the journalists identified parts of the equipment (uniform, rifles) as currently used by Russian ground forces and paratroopers.[298]

ResultSky News team filmed groups of troops near Novoazovsk wearing modern combat gear typical for Russian units and traveling in new military vehicles with number plates and other markings removed. Specialists consulted by the journalists identified parts of the equipment (uniform, rifles) as currently used by Russian ground forces and paratroopers.[298]

On 3 September, Ukrainian President Poroshenko said he had reached a permanent ceasefire agreement with Russian President Putin.[299] Russia then denied the ceasefire took place, denying being party to the conflict at all.[300] Ukraine then retracted its previous statement concerning the potential ceasefire.[301]

Also on 3 September, the OSCE for the first time reported "light and heavy calibre shootings from the east and south-east areas which are also bordering Ukraine". The r

Also on 3 September, the OSCE for the first time reported "light and heavy calibre shootings from the east and south-east areas which are also bordering Ukraine". The report also stated that the OSCE Observer Teams had seen an increase of military-style dressed men crossing the border in both directions, including ones with LPR and Novorossiya symbols and flags, and wounded being transported back to Russia.[302]

Lindsey Hilsum wrote in the Channel 4 news blog that in early September Ukrainian troops at Dmytrivka came under attack from BM-30 Smerch rockets from Russia.[303] On 4 September, she wrote of rumours that Ukrainian troops who had been shelling Luhansk for weeks were retreating west and that Russian soldiers with heavy armour were reported to have come over the border to back up the rebels.[304]

Journalist Tim Judah wrote in the NYR blog about the scale of the devastation suffered by Ukrainian forces in southeastern Ukraine over the last week of August 2014 that it a

Journalist Tim Judah wrote in the NYR blog about the scale of the devastation suffered by Ukrainian forces in southeastern Ukraine over the last week of August 2014 that it amounted "to a catastrophic defeat and will long be remembered by embittered Ukrainians as among the darkest days of their history." The scale of the destruction achieved in several ambushes revealed "that those attacking the pro-government forces were highly professional and using very powerful weapons." The fighting in Ilovaysk had begun on 7 August when units from three Ukrainian volunteer militias and the police attempted to take it back from rebel control. Then, on 28 August, the rebels were able to launch a major offensive, with help from elsewhere, including Donetsk—though "not Russia," according to Commander Givi, the head of rebel forces there. By 1 September it was all over and the Ukrainians had been decisively defeated. Commander Givi said the ambushed forces were militias, not regular soldiers, whose numbers had been boosted, 'by foreigners, including Czechs, Hungarians, and "niggers." '[305]

Mick Krever wrote on the CNN blog that on 5 September Russia's Permanent Representative to the OSCE, Andrey Kelin had said it was natural pro-Russian separatists "are going to liberate" Mariupol. Ukrainian forces stated that Russian intelligence groups had been spotted in the area. Kelin said 'there might be volunteers over there.'[306] NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen meanwhile said there were several thousand regular Russian forces operating in Ukraine.[citation needed] Lindsey Hilsum reported on the Channel 4 news blog about the total destruction of Luhansk International Airport which was being used as a base by the Ukrainian forces to shell Luhansk, probably because the Russians decided to 'turn the tide' - the terminal building and everything around was utterly destroyed. Forces from Azerbaijan, Belarus and Tajikistan who were fighting on the side of the rebels allowed themselves to be filmed.[307]

On 12 September 2014, The Guardian saw a Russian armoured personnel carrier in Lutuhyne.[308] The next day, it was reported that Moscow had sent a convoy of trucks delivering "aid" into Ukraine without Kyiv's consent. This convoy was not inspected by Ukraine or accompanied by the ICRC. Top Ukrainian leaders largely remained silent about the convoys after the ceasefire deal was reached. The "aid" was part of the 12-point Minsk agreement.[309][310]

The speaker of Russia's upper house of parliament and Russian state television channels acknowledged that Russian soldiers entered Ukraine, but referred to them as "volunteers".[311] A reporter for Novaya Gazeta, an opposition newspaper in Russia, stated that the Russian military leadership paid soldiers to resign their commissions and fight in Ukraine in the early summer of 2014, and then began ordering soldiers into Ukraine. This reporter mentioned knowledge of at least one case when soldiers who refused were threatened with prosecution.[312] Russian opposition MP Lev Shlosberg made similar statements, although he said combatants from his country are "regular Russian troops", disguised as units of the DPR and LPR.[313]

In December, Ukrainian hackers published a large cache of documents coming allegedly from a hacked server of Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs (MID). The documents originated from various departments coordinated by MID, such as local police, road police, emergency services etc. The cache included documents describing Russian military casualties arriving on 25 August to hospitals in the Rostov area after a battle "10 km northwest of the small village of Prognoi", which matched a battle in Krasnaya Talovka reported on the same date by Ukrainian side.[314]

In early September 2014, Russian state-owned television channels reported on the funerals of Russian soldiers who died in Ukraine during the war in Donbass, but described them as "volunteers" fighting for the "Russian world". Valentina Matviyenko, a top politician in the ruling United Russia party, also praised "volunteers" fighting in "our fraternal nation", referring to Ukraine.[311] Russian state television for the first time showed the funeral of a soldier killed fighting in east Ukraine. State-controlled TV station Channel One showed the burial of paratrooper Anatoly Travkin in the central Russian city of Kostroma. The broadcaster said Travkin had not told his wife or commanders about his decision to fight alongside pro-Russia rebels battling government forces. "Officially he just went on leave," the news reader said.[315]

After a series of military defeats and setbacks for the Donetsk and Lugansk separatists, who united under the banner of "Novorossiya", a term Russian President Vladimir Putin used to describe southeastern Ukraine,[316][317] Russia dispatched what it called a "humanitarian convoy" of trucks across the Russo-Ukrainian border in mid-August 2014. Ukraine reacted to the move by calling it a "direct invasion".[318] Ukraine's National Security and Defense Council published a report on the number and contents of these convoys, claiming they were arriving almost daily in November (up to 9 convoys on 30 November) and their contents were mainly arms and ammunition. In total, in November there were 1,903 trucks crossing the border from Russia to Donbass, 20 buses with soldiers or volunteers, 402 armoured personnel carriers, 256 tanks, 138 "Grad" launchers, 42 cannons and howitzers, 35 self-propelled artillery vehicles, 5 "Buk" launchers, 4 "Uragan" launchers, 4 "Buratino" flamethrowers, 6 pontoon bridge trucks, 5 "Taran" radio interception systems, 5 armoured recovery vehicles, 3 radiolocation systems, 2 truck cranes, 1 track layer vehicle, 1 radiolocation station, unknown number of "Rtut-BM" electronic warfare systems, 242 fuel tankers and 205 light off-road vehicles and vans.[319]

About the same time, multiple reports indicated separatist militias were receiving reinforcements that allowed them to turn the tables on government forces.[320] Armoured columns coming from Russia also pushed into southern Donetsk Oblast and reportedly captured the town of Novoazovsk, clashing with Ukrainian forces and opening a new front in the Donbass conflict.[288][321]

Russian officials denied[322] reports that Russian military units were operating in Ukraine (see War in Donbass), claiming instead they had been sent on routine drills close to the border with Ukraine[323] and crossed the border by mistake.[324] On 28 August 2014, Dutch Brigadier-General Nico Tak, head of NATO's crisis management center, said that "over 1,000 Russian troops are now operating inside Ukraine".[325]

On 5 September, Sergey Krivenko, a member of Russian President's Council for Civil Society and Human Rights, commented on the growing number of Russian soldiers killed in Ukraine, saying that "the situation now is very strange, something unusual is going on; it could be described as massive dying of soldiers, which is not typical for a time of peace; people from different military units are killed as a result of shots, from loss of blood, all these reasons are documented; and the military command explains that it happened during training or provides no explanation at all".[326][327]

On 7 November, NATO officials confirmed the continued invasion of Ukraine, with 32 Russian tanks, 16 howitzer cannons and 30 trucks of troops entering the country.[328] On 12 November, NATO reiterated the prevalence of Russian troops; US general Philip Breedlove said "Russian tanks, Russian artillery, Russian air defence systems and Russian combat troops" were sighted.[149] The Lithuanian Mission to the United Nations denounced Russia's 'undeclared war' on Ukraine.[329] Journalist Menahem Kahana took a picture showing a 1RL232 "Leopard" battlefield surveillance radar system in Torez, east of Donetsk; and Dutch freelance journalist Stefan Huijboom took pictures which showed the 1RL232 traveling with the 1RL239 "Lynx" radar system.[330]

Burnt-out remains of tanks and vehicles left after battles appeared to provide further evidence of Russian involvement.[331]

The Associated Press reported 80 unmarked military vehicles on the move in rebel-controlled areas. Three separate columns were observed, one

Burnt-out remains of tanks and vehicles left after battles appeared to provide further evidence of Russian involvement.[331]

The Associated Press reported 80 unmarked military vehicles on the move in rebel-controlled areas. Three separate columns were observed, one near the main separatist stronghold of Donetsk and two outside the town of Snizhne. Several of the trucks were seen to be carrying troops.[79]

OSCE monitors further observed vehicles apparently used to transport soldiers' dead bodies crossing the Russian-Ukrainian border – in one case a vehicle marked with Russia's military code for soldiers killed in action crossed from Russia into Ukraine on 11 November 2014, and later returned.[81] On 23 January 2015 the Committee of Soldiers' Mothers warned about conscripts being sent to east Ukraine.[332] NATO said it had seen an increase in Russian tanks, artillery pieces and other heavy military equipment in eastern Ukraine and renewed its call for Moscow to withdraw its forces.[333]

The Center for Eurasian Strategic Intelligence estimated, based on "official statements and interrogation records of captured military men from these units, satellite surveillance data" as well as verified announcements from relatives and profiles in social networks, that over 30 Russian military units were taking part in the conflict in Ukraine. In total, over 8,000 soldiers had fought there at different moments.[334] The Chicago Council on Global Affairs stated that the Russian separatists enjoyed technical advantages over the Ukrainian army since the large inflow of advanced military systems in mid-2014: effective anti-aircraft weapons ("Buk", MANPADS) suppressed Ukrainian air strikes, Russian drones provided intelligence, and Russian secure communications system thwarted the Ukrainian side from communications intelligence. The Russian side also frequently employed electronic warfare systems that Ukraine lacked. Similar conclusions about the technical advantage of the Russian separatists were voiced by the Conflict Studies Research Centre.[335]

In November 2014, Igor Girkin gave a long interview to the extreme right-wing[336] nationalist newspaper Zavtra ("Tomorrow") where for the first time he released details about the beginning of the conflict in Donbass. According to Girkin, he was the one who "pulled the trigger of war" and it was necessary because acquisition of Crimea alone by Russia "did not make sense" and Crimea as part of the Novorossiya "would make the jewel in the crown of the Russian Empire". Girkin had been directed to Donbass by Sergey Aksyonov and he entered Ukraine with a group of 52 officers in April, initially taking Slavyansk, Kramatorsk and then other cities. Girkin also talked about the situation in August, when separatist forces were close to defeat and only a prompt intervention of Russian "leavers" (ironic term for "soldiers on leave") saved them. Their forces took command in the siege of Mariupol as well.[337][338] In response to internal criticism of the Russian government's policy of not officially recognizing Russian soldiers in Ukraine as fulfilling military service and leaving their families without any source of income if they are killed, president Vladimir Putin signed a new law in October entitling their families to a monthly compensation. Two new entitlement categories were added: "missing in action" and "declared dead" (as of 1 January 2016).[339][340]