An armored column that includes ten tanks has crossed into Ukraine from Russia, the Ukrainian military reported earlier today. According to military spokesman Andriy Lysenko, the convoy is part of a greater attempt by Russia to open up a new southern front in the region’s ongoing conflict, which has killed 2,000 people this year according to the U.N.
The column bore symbols of the pro-Russian rebel group the “Donetsk People’s Republic,” but Lysenko said the incursion was “an attempt by the Russian military in the guise of [rebel] fighters to open a new area of military confrontation in the southern Donetsk region.”
The column was halted by border guards near the city of Novoazovsk, located approximately ten miles into the country from the Russian border. It is said to have been heading for Mariupol, an important port on the Sea of Azov that is currently still under control of the Ukrainian government.
When asked about the incident, Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov denied any knowledge, saying “there is plenty of disinformation out there about our ‘incursions.’”
Lavrov said that Russia plans to send a second convoy of “humanitarian aid” into Ukraine; the first crossed the border into Ukraine last week before Red Cross inspections of its 220 trucks had concluded.
Russian president Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko are scheduled to meet in Minsk on Tuesday to discuss the ongoing crisis. Poroshenko recently announced $3 billion in new defense spending, saying that Ukraine was under “constant military threat” for the foreseeable future.