Footage released by Al Jazeera and according to a Reuters witness appears to show tanks and other vehicles moving into the Ukrainian city in the early hours of Tuesday morning. The report comes after Russian President Vladimir Putin, 69, ordered the Kremlin’s defence ministry to send troops into the two separatist regions in eastern Ukraine.
Mr Putin announced in his decree that he recognised the independence of the Donetsk People’s Republic and Lugansk People’s Republic.
Despite the Russian leader’s assertion that the two regions want to break away from Kiev, both voted overwhelmingly for Ukrainian independence in 1991.
Boris Johnson, 57, will host a COBRA meeting this morning to discuss the UK’s response to developments in Ukraine.
A Number 10 spokesman said: “The Prime Minister will chair a COBRA at 6.30am to discuss the latest developments in Ukraine and to coordinate the UK response including agreeing a significant package of sanctions to be introduced immediately.”
Mr Johnson also described Mr Putin’s decision to recognise the People’s Republics of Donetsk and Luhansk as “breach of international law”.
He added: “It’s a flagrant violation of the sovereignty and integrity of Ukraine.”
Britain is also expected to unveil sanctions it will impose on Moscow later today.
Liz Truss, 46, said: “Tomorrow we will be announcing new sanctions on Russia in response to their breach of international law and attack on Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
But footage of Russian vehicles heading towards Donetsk comes just hours after Mr Johnson warned Volodymyr Zelenskyy, 44, about the imminent threat of invasion.
Mr Johnson’s office said: “The Prime Minister told President Zelenskiy that he believed an invasion was a real possibility in the coming hours and days.”
They added: “He told President Zelenskiy that the UK had already drawn up sanctions to target those complicit in the violation of Ukraine’s territorial integrity, and that those measures would come into force tomorrow.
“The Prime Minister also said he would explore sending further defensive support to Ukraine, at the request of the Ukrainian Government.”
The EU is expected to also impose sanctions, while the US has imposed restrictions on investment from Americans to the two regions.
A White House statement said: “President Biden signed an Executive Order to respond to President Putin’s action to purportedly recognize the so-called Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics as ‘independent’ states.
“President Putin’s action contradicts Russia’s commitments under the Minsk agreements, refutes Russia’s claimed commitment to diplomacy, and undermines Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
The statement added: “This Executive Order is distinct from the swift and severe economic measures we are prepared to issue with Allies and partners in response to a further Russian invasion of Ukraine.
“We are continuing to closely consult with Ukraine and with Allies and partners on next steps and urge Russia to immediately deescalate.”