German-based social media analyst Conflict Reporter posted on Twitter two images of a tank sighted on a railway flatbed carriage and a road transporter in Russia’s Rostov region carrying the Russian Railways marking H2200, next to two images of what appears to be the same tank, with the same marking, taken in Donetsk region at some time in October and on November 10.
At this time UNIAN has no means to verify the times and places the photographs were taken, but they appear to add to the growing weight of evidence that Russia has continued to step up its supplies of military hardware to insurgents in east Ukraine, in violation of the international commitments it gave when signing the Minsk Protocol on ending the conflict in Ukraine's east.
The photographs, and reports from journalists in the area, are also at odds with claims by militants in Donetsk that the large numbers of military vehicles seen around the city in recent days are merely reinforcements from other parts of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic.
Earlier on Monday and Vice News reporter Simon Ostrovsky tweeted that five tanks had moved through the Donetsk town of Shakhtarsk from the west followed by two armored personnel carriers flying the Russian flag, online newspaper Ukrainska Pravda reported.
Ostrovsky later tweeted “Lots of undisguised hardware on the move in separatist controlled areas of E #Ukraine. Feels like a purposeful show of force.”
Over the previous two days, observers from the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe's Special Monitoring Mission in Ukraine have recorded the movement of several columns of military equipment, in particular on the eastern outskirts of Donetsk.
The reports would seem to back up a claim made on Friday by Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council that Russia was resupplying the anti-government militants. The NSDC said that 32 Russian tanks and more than a dozen artillery pieces, along with troops and ammunition, had crossed from Russia into Ukraine, in direct contravention of the Minsk Protocol of September 5 on ending the conflict, which calls for Russia to scale back its military presence in Ukraine.
That peace deal is now under severe strain, with the Ukrainian government accusing the insurgents of failing to stand by their commitments, in particular through their carrying out daily attacks on Ukrainian troops, even though a ceasefire is officially supposed to be in place.
Ukraine says over 100 of its troops have been killed in attacks by militants since the “ceasefire” was announced. In reality, there has been no halt to hostilities in eastern Ukraine since the Minsk Protocol was signed, though there initially was a sharp reduction in the scale of the fighting in the immediate wake of the peace deal being announced.
However, since then the anti-government militants have launched practically daily attacks on Donetsk Airport, which is still controlled by the government, and have taken more ground from government forces to the north and west of the city of Luhansk.
In addition, the militants, in violation of the Minsk accord, went ahead on November 2 with their own elections in the districts of Ukraine’s Donetsk and Luhansk regions in which they have seized control.
In response, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said the militants' elections threatened the peace process in eastern Ukraine.