U.S. and NATO partners are escalating their presence of military aircraft, people and ships in Europe for the next two weeks in military exercises that have taken on greater symbolic significance due to the continued Russian advances in East Ukraine.
Russian soldiers, tanks and heavy artillery began rolling into southeastern Ukraine in earnest Thursday, the Ukrainian government said, as well-armed detachments captured key towns, burned buildings and sent the underequipped Ukrainian forces into full retreat -- a show of military force that the United States now considers an invasion in all but name.
One of the top rebel leaders in eastern Ukraine claims that his forces have recently received 1,200 fighters who had undergone training in Russia. The claim came during a speech to leading rebels, apparently recorded on Friday and posted to YouTube by a pro-separatist media outlet. His language suggested the men had already crossed the border.
Fighting raged in the city of Donetsk on Sunday, as government forces continued to close in on the rebel stronghold and pro-Russian insurgents backed away from an unconditional cease-fire offer that they announced just the day before.
The United States released a series of satellite images Sunday that appear to support its claims that Russian forces have fired across the border into Ukraine to support rebels there, suggesting a new level of direct Russian involvement in the conflict, USA Today reported.
Two Ukrainian fighter jets were shot down Wednesday over separatist-held territory not far from the site of the Malaysia Airlines crash as international outrage over the tragedy has done little to slow the fierce fighting in eastern Ukraine, the Wall Street Journal reported.
Russia supplied sophisticated missile launchers to separatists in Eastern Ukraine, a U.S. official told the Washington Post. Meanwhile, separatists prevented international investigators from gaining unfettered access to the crash site on Saturday.
Over 65,000 Russian troops were placed on combat alert and ordered to take part in readiness drills by Russian President Vladmir Putin. Meanwhile, the U.S. Treasury Department levied sanctions against seven separatists with broader measures being readied against finance, defense, and technology industries, Bloomberg reported.