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Ukraine accuses Russia of sending in tanks, escalating crisis

• By Natalia Zinets and Vladimir Soldatkin

Thursday's cross-border incursion, if confirmed, is a significant escalation of a conflict that has killed more than 4,000 people since the separatists rose up in mid-April and would call into question Russia's commitment to a two-month-old ceasefire deal.

The truce has looked particularly fragile this week, with each side accusing the other of violations after separatist elections last Sunday condemned as illegitimate by the West.

"Supplies of military equipment and enemy fighters from the Russian Federation are continuing," military spokesman Andriy Lysenko told a briefing in Kiev, describing a column that included 16 big artillery guns and 30 trucks carrying troops and ammunition as well as 32 tanks.

He said five Ukrainian soldiers had been killed in the past 24 hours although Kiev has denied rebel charges of launching a new military offensive.

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