Soldiers pour across the border in conflict-ravaged breakaway region
KIEV, Ukraine — At least 1,500 Russian troops and convoys of military hardware entered Ukraine over the weekend, the Ukrainian military said on Monday.
“One thousand five hundred Russian soldiers and 300 pieces of military equipment, including Grad missile systems, crossed the Ukraine-Russia border on February 7 and 8,” Ukraine military spokesman Andriy Lysensko told journalists.
Around 170 vehicles, including trucks, petrol tankers and cars, also crossed the border, he said.
Ukraine and the West accuse Moscow of supplying troops and equipment to pro-Russian separatists battling the Kiev military in the east of the country, something Russia denies.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said the conflict in Ukraine will continue if rival groups there do not agree among themselves, in comments published ahead of a proposed summit with French, German and Ukrainian leaders.
The four leaders had discussed the meeting in a phone call Sunday as part of their efforts to achieve a “comprehensive settlement” in the conflict between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian rebels, Berlin said.
Putin, however, warned that the summit planned in the Belarussian capital Minsk would only take place if the leaders agreed on a “number of points” by then.
The Russian president was to be in Egypt on Monday and Tuesday for a meeting with his counterpart Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.
He gave an interview to the Egyptian state newspaper Al-Ahram ahead of his visit to Cairo, calling on the government in Kiev to “listen to their people”.
“It is evident that the crisis will continue until the Ukrainians themselves agree with each other,” he said, according to a transcript released by the presidency.
Fresh fighting in the former Soviet republic claimed 12 civilian lives, separatist and Kiev authorities said, with 12 Ukrainian troops also killed in the last 24 hours.
A previous peace deal agreed in Minsk in September last year has been largely ignored, with fighting escalating in recent weeks as the rebels push further into government-held territory.
Some 5,400 people have been killed since the start of the conflict in April 2014.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.