BRUSSELS, Nov. 12 (UPI) -- NATO has confirmed that columns of Russian combat troops and equipment illegally entered Ukraine this week.
"Russian tanks, Russian artillery, Russian air defense systems and Russian combat troops" were observed crossing the border, said U.S. Gen. Philip Breedlove, Supreme Allied Commander Europe and Commander of U.S. European Command.
Russia has repeatedly denied its military forces are inside Ukraine to help bolster pro-Russian separatists.
The United Nations Security Council scheduled an emergency meeting for 2:30 p.m. Eastern in New York Wednesday to discuss the developments.
Last week, Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird expressed concern "by reports of Russian troops moving closer to the border with Ukraine and urged "Russia to immediately withdraw its troops not only from border regions but also from Ukraine's sovereign territory." A convoy of 32 Russian tanks, 16 howitzer cannons and 30 trucks also reportedly crossed from Russia into Ukraine through the separatist-controlled Luhansk region on Nov. 6.
According to the Minsk Protocol, all parties to the Ukraine conflict agreed to deescalate the crisis through the institution of an immediate cease-fire and the withdrawal of illegal armed groups, mercenaries and military equipment -- two stipulations that have largely been ignored.
"The ceasefire is in name only at this point," Breedlove said Tuesday. "The violence continues to increase day by day."