NATO is releasing satellite imagery today that it says depicts Russian troops engaging in military operations within Ukraine. Russia has slowly been encroaching on Ukraine since earlier this year, and its actions are increasingly beginning to look like an invasion — even if no one is willing to say it. "Over the past two weeks we have noted a significant escalation in both the level and sophistication of Russia’s military interference in Ukraine," brigadier general Nico Tak, of NATO's crisis center, says in a statement. "The satellite images released today provide additional evidence that Russian combat soldiers, equipped with sophisticated heavy weaponry, are operating inside Ukraine’s sovereign territory."
"It would be impossible NOT to fire into Ukrainian territory."
Tak says that NATO has seen Russia giving large quantities of "advanced weapons," such as tanks and air defense systems, to separatist forces in Eastern Ukraine, and he calls the situation "increasingly grave." NATO believes that the images show that Russia is attempting to destabilize Ukraine by supplying the separatists and extending the length of the conflict they've been in. Obama, too, agrees that these images show that Russia is behind the violence. "The new images of soldiers inside Ukraine make that plain," he said at a press conference this afternoon.
Russia has largely denied that it has troops operating within Ukraine, making this conflict all the more difficult to diffuse. Releasing this imagery widely, however, basically allows NATO to widely refute that as governments work toward a peace deal. At this point, though, Russia's actions are escalating dramatically, and it isn't obvious what the country's end goal is. The photos released today were taken late last week and in late July, as well.
The image above is said to depict artillery units near Krasnodon, Ukraine. NATO writes, "This configuration is exactly how trained military professionals would arrange their assets on the ground, indicating that these are not unskilled amateurs, but Russian soldiers."
A deployment site in Russia just 31 miles off of Ukraine's border.
Probable self-propelled guns four miles outside of Ukraine.
A wider view of the prior image. "It is clear that from this location, it would be impossible NOT to fire into Ukrainian territory," Nato writes. "This is clearly NOT an exercise; these guns are being used to support separatist forces operating in the territory of Ukraine."