rifleA group of Russian soldiers has crossed the Ukrainian border in armoured infantry carriers and trucks and entered the eastern town of Amvrosiyivka, according to a Ukrainian military spokesman. A convoy of “up to 100” tanks, armoured vehicles and rocket launchers was seen travelling on a road toward Telmanove, a town about 80 kilometres south of rebel stronghold Donetsk and 20 kilometres from the Russian border, Ukraine’s army said in a statement. The army did not give details about the personnel on board the vehicles or when the column was thought to have entered Ukraine. A military source said the convoy had come from Russia. “We believe that this is Russian equipment. You cannot buy 100 tanks at a market in Donetsk or Lugansk,” the source said. “Of course they have been moved from across the border.” Military spokesman Andriy Lysenko said government forces had killed about 200 separatists and destroyed tanks and missile systems in clashes in the towns of Horlivka and Ilovaysk further north. Mr Lysenko said 13 Ukrainian service personnel had been killed in the latest fighting and 36 people had been wounded. If it turns out Russian soldiers are fighting in Ukraine it could further deepen the country’s crisis — the focus of talks this week between Russian president Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian prime minister Arseny Yatseniuk. US ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt said in a Twitter post: “The new columns of Russian tanks and armour crossing into Ukraine indicates a Russian-directed counter-offensive may be underway.”  Meanwhile, Mr Yatseniuk claimed Russia planned to halt gas flows to Europe over the coming winter, comments which are likely to escalate the standoff between Moscow and the West. “The situation in [Ukraine’s] energy sector is difficult. We know of Russia’s plans to block [gas] transit even to European Union countries this winter,” he told a government meeting. Russia stopped gas supplies to Ukraine in June over a gas pricing dispute but has continued supplies to Europe, its largest market. Mr Yatseniuk did not say how he knew about the Russian plans. Last year half of Russian gas exports to the EU were shipped via Ukraine. ABC News

AAFC1598-0BA7-43B8-8E5B-A86B1CE3077D_w640_r1_s_cx0_cy8_cw0NATO is not looking for ways to set off a war with Russia, despite the alliance’s commitment to build up rapid response forces close to Russia’s border, a representative of the Center for Strategic and International Studies told RIA Novosti. “We are not looking for war with Russia. We aim to prevent any kind of unusual, unconventional approaches that might come after NATO territory or NATO stability,” International Security Director at CSIS Katherine Hicks said during a Wednesday press briefing on the upcoming NATO summit. “It’s about that rapid reaction capability,” Hicks said on the plans for rotational bases and force presence along NATO’s Eastern front. According to statements, made ahead of the September 4-5 NATO summit in Wales, the members of the alliance will focus their discussion on improving the readiness of NATO forces within the member-states. Such plans on the improvement and modernization of NATO’s Response Forces (NRF) have raised concerns in Russia, which has watched the alliance gradually approach its western borders since the start of the Ukrainian crisis. Within the NRF, NATO intends to ensure the readiness of the Immediate Response Forces, comprised of 13,000 troops provided by member nations, and also build non-alliance capabilities in Ukraine. “The types of capabilities are going to look different than they would have during the Cold War. Sufficiency today looks a lot different than, maybe, one would have thought in the Cold War,” Hicks said. NATO’s new capabilities are intended to provide assurance for both member-states and non-allies in the region, Hicks added. “[NATO is] explicitly taking a step down to a building partnership capacity approach to non-NATO members, instead of making an attempt to officially incorporate them into the alliance,” she said, referring to such non-member states as Georgia and Ukraine. Hicks said she believes NATO does not want to provoke a response that “could be misinterpreted and thus lead to a miscalculation that is not helpful in any way.” Rianovosti