NOVOAZOVSK, Ukraine (AP) — Pro-Russia separatists in Ukraine are in firm control of a strategic coastal town (Novoazovsk), a day after Ukraine said tanks and armored vehicles had invaded from Russia.
Reporters today saw at least a half-dozen tanks in the town, bearing the flags of a would-be state proclaimed by rebels in two eastern Ukraine regions. None of the tanks carried Russian markings -- but ready-to-eat meals seen near one of the tanks carried markings that said they were issued by the Russian army.
One rebel commander insisted, "There is no Russian equipment coming through here." He says the rebels are fighting with equipment abandoned by the Ukrainian forces.
But a top rebel leader has said Russia has been supplying equipment and fighters.
NATO's secretary-general, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, said today that despite what he called the "hollow denials" from Russia, it's clear that "Russian troops and equipment have illegally crossed the border."
Yesterday, NATO said at least 1,000 Russian troops are in Ukraine. It later released what it said were satellite photos of Russian self-propelled artillery units moving last week.
A spokesman for the rebels in the coastal town says the goal is to eventually push westward to a major port city (Mariupol). But there's no sign today of any imminent movement.
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