Ukraine fears new Russian invasion

A Ukrainian official on Thursday said that two columns of Russian tanks had crossed the border, sparking fears that a broad invasion was underway, according to reports.

The security official said the Russian tanks had entered a strategic Ukrainian town forcing outgunned local forces to retreat, The Associated Press reported.

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The latest military action comes as Ukrainian troops continued fighting Russian and separatist forces on a southern front near the border town of Novoazovsk, east of Crimea, according to the Washington Post

Ukrainian forces and pro-Russia separatists have been fighting since April, and Western officials say there is evidence that Moscow is supporting the rebels with weapons, as well as operating their own military units inside Ukraine. 

The U.S. and European Union have hit Russia with multiple rounds of sanctions, following Moscow’s March annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean region.

Russia says its own troops are not active inside Ukraine, but Western officials have dismissed those denials. 

“We have reports from multiple sources showing quite a lively Russian involvement in destabilizing eastern Ukraine,” NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen told British reporters on Wednesday.

“We have seen artillery firing across the border and also inside Ukraine. We have seen a Russian military buildup along the border. Quite clearly, Russia is involved in destabilizing eastern Ukraine," he continued.

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Wednesday that the situation was of “deep concern” to the U.S.

“We’re also concerned by the Russian government’s unwillingness to tell the truth, even as its soldiers are found 30 miles inside Ukraine,” she said.

U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron warned Russia there would be "further consequences" if it does not "pursue a different path."

"I’m extremely concerned by mounting evidence that Russian troops have made large-scale incursions into South Eastern Ukraine, completely disregarding the sovereignty of a neighbour," Cameron said in a statement.

"It is simply not enough to engage in talks in Minsk, while Russian tanks continue to roll over the border into Ukraine. Such activity must cease immediately," he added.

NATO announced on Wednesday that it would deploy forces at new bases in eastern Europe for the first time. 

Russian officials took note of NATO’s stepped up presence.

“Obviously, we will take into consideration the configuration and activity of the NATO forces at the Russian borders in our military planning, and will take all that is necessary to reliably provide security and to ensure safety against any threats,” Russian envoy to NATO Alexander Grushko told Interfax.

Russian officials are also planning to send a second convoy into Ukraine for the residents of Luhansk, a rebel stronghold. Moscow says the convoys carry humanitarian supplies, but NATO and Ukraine say the convoys are being used to provide military assistance or as a cover for an invasion.

Moscow sent a convoy last Friday into Ukraine without permission from Kiev.