Two killed in shelling as tanks roll in

The Ukrainian military says two soldiers have been killed and 12 wounded in shelling by pro-Russian separatists in east Ukraine in the past 24 hours, the most casualties this year, as ceasefire violations increase.

Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the deployment of troops to two breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine after recognizing them as independent on Monday, accelerating a crisis the West fears could unleash a major war.

A Reuters witness saw tanks and other military hardware moving through the separatist-controlled city of Donetsk after Mr Putin formally recognized the breakaway regions and ordered the deployment of Russian forces to “keep the peace”.

About five tanks were seen in a column on the edge of Donetsk and two more in another part of town, a Reuters reporter said. No insignia was visible on the vehicles.

“We are on our land, we are not afraid of anyone or anything.” So declared Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky when he addressed his country just after 2am local time.

His message came after countries including the UK and US warned of sanctions on Russia after Vladimir Putin recognized the breakaway regions of eastern Ukraine as independent.

Boris Johnson is leading a crisis meeting of ministers and senior officials to consider the response to Mr Putin’s actions.

Moscow said on Tuesday that Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was still ready for talks with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

“Even during the most difficult moments … we say: we are ready for negotiations,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said in remarks aired on Youtube.

Ukraine’s borders remain “unchangeable” regardless of Russia’s recent actions, Kyiv’s ambassador to the United Nations told the Security Council.

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