Ukraine Diplomat: ‘Russia Is Planning a Full-Scale Invasion’

By Patrick Goodenough | November 12, 2014 | 4:40am EST

Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, passes by President Obama at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Beijing on Nov. 11, 2014. (AP Photo/RIA Novosti/Presidential Press Service)

(CNSNews.com) – As President Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin met briefly on the sidelines of a summit in Beijing Tuesday, international monitors voiced grave concern about escalating tensions in eastern Ukraine, and the country’s ambassador to the U.N. warned that Russia “is planning a full-scale invasion.”

“I think the U.N. should be informed ASAP that Russia is planning a full-scale invasion into Ukraine," Ambassador Yuriy Sergeyev said in a Twitter message. “The latest facts prove it and leave no doubts.”

Sergeyev is due to brief the U.N. Security Council on Wednesday about what he called the “aggravating escalation” and violations of a ceasefire between Ukrainian authorities and pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine, put in place last September.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which has a monitoring mission in Ukraine, warned of a real “risk of further escalation,” and NATO’s military commander was quoted by Reuters as saying he was concerned about the increased movement of Russian convoys ferrying “material, equipment, armored weapons [and] supplies” into eastern Ukraine.

Tensions have deepened and fighting escalated since two separatist regions early this month held elections that were condemned by the West but backed by Russia. OSCE monitors said early this week they had seen a convoy of 43 unmarked military vehicles near the rebel stronghold of Donetsk, some of them towing artillery systems.

(Russia’s RIA Novosti news agency quoted a deputy commander of a Donetsk rebel militia as saying the convoy in question belongs to “independence supporters” and was being moved from one location to another “for tactical reasons.”)

Allegations of stepped-up heavy weapons supplies also came from Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, who in a phone conversation with Vice-President Joe Biden told him “about Russia’s blatant escalation of the situation in eastern Ukraine, including increased shelling of Ukrainian government positions and the transfer of additional heavy weapons to the separatists,” according to a White House readout of the call.

“The Vice President noted that if Russia continued to willfully violate the terms of the Minsk agreement, the costs to Russia will increase,” it added, referring to the September ceasefire deal, under which Moscow pledged among other things to withdraw military personnel and equipment from Ukraine and to ensure that the Ukraine side of the international border reverts to Ukrainian control.

The U.S. and European Union have imposed several rounds of sanctions on Russia in response to its intervention in Ukraine, which included the annexation last March of the Crimea region.

Despite the damage caused to the Russian economy, including a dive in the value of its currency, Putin has shown little sign of backing down as the West continues to warn of further measures.

Although some Russian troops were pulled back from the border in the first half of October, NATO says there are still seven or eight battalion task groups in the area, and that some troops moved even closer to the border in the days leading up to the controversial elections.

According to NATO commander Air Force Gen. Philip Breedlove, around 250-300 Russian troops remain on Ukrainian territory. Russia has repeatedly denied having any troop presence in Ukraine, saying any Russians who may be there are volunteers.

The Ukraine crisis, which has cost more than 4,000 lives, according to the U.N., has severely impacted relations between Russia and the West. But Obama and Putin, both in the Chinese capital for an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit, had several brief encounters on Tuesday.

“On three occasions throughout the day, for a total of approximately 15-20 minutes, President Obama had an opportunity to speak with President Putin,” National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan said, adding that they had talked about Iran, Syria, and Ukraine.

The two leaders may have the opportunity for a more substantive meeting on the fringes of two further engagements this week – an East Asia Summit in Naypyidaw, Burma on Wednesday and Thursday, and a G20 Summit in Brisbane, Australia, at the weekend.

The last formal meeting held between Obama and Putin was on the sidelines of a G8 summit in Northern Ireland last June. They had been due to meet again when Obama attended a G20 summit in St. Petersburg three months later, but the White House canceled the bilateral meeting. The move followed Putin’s decision to grant asylum to Edward Snowden after the former NSA contractor exposed U.S. surveillance operations around the world.

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