Russian troops have moved into the eastern region of Ukraine that Russia has now recognized as “independent,” according the prime minister of NATO member Latvia and sources familiar with US intelligence.
“According to the information at my disposal, Putin is moving additional forces and tanks into the occupied Donbas territories,” Latvian Prime Minister Arturs Krišjānis Kariņš told CNN’s Jim Sciutto on Wednesday. “By any definition that’s a crossing of a sovereign territory into a neighboring country.”
Pressed specifically on whether he was referring to the entry of additional Russian troops since Moscow recognized the two separatist regions earlier this week, Kariņš replied: “Yes, according to the information at my disposal, this is exactly what we’re seeing.”
Two other sources familiar with US intelligence confirmed to CNN that additional Russian troops have in fact crossed the border into the Donbas region since Russian President Vladimir Putin recognized the two regions and issued an order deploying “peacekeepers” into the Donbas on Tuesday.
Russia has deployed one to two so-called battalion tactical groups, Russia’s main combat formation, each of which comprise an average of about 800 troops, according to a senior US official familiar with the latest intelligence.
CNN has not independently verified the presence of additional Russian troops in the Donbas.
US President Joe Biden on Tuesday described events now underway in Ukraine as "the beginning of a Russian invasion,” but senior administration officials have since declined to confirm whether additional Russian troops had entered into the Donbas — where unmarked Russian forces have propping up separatist fighters since 2014.