Video Shows Russian Tanks Rolling into Ukraine as Invasion Begins

Witnesses have described Russian military vehicles on the move into the two breakaway republics in eastern Ukraine that President Vladimir Putin has recognized as independent.

A video showing a column of military vehicles with their headlights on moving in convoy along a road on the outskirts of the city of Donetsk was released by Al Jazeera.

It came only hours after Putin said he would deploy troops into the self-declared Donetsk People's Republic (DPR) and Luhansk People's Republic (LPR) to engage in "peacekeeping" in a move which Western leaders fear could lead to war.

Ukrainian officials have said that people in the town of Makiivka, about 10 miles west of rebel-held Donetsk, have seen what appear to be Russian armored vehicles on the move, The Guardian reported.

The paper cited one source as saying that "a huge convoy" of Russian armored personnel carriers (APCs) and other equipment had been traveling for one and a half hours and was seen heading north towards the city of Yasynuvata, also in the Donetsk region.

Video shot by Reuters at Makiivka shows APCs and trucks on the road where such military vehicles had not been on the streets in previous days.

No insignia were visible and Ukrainian officials said it was not possible to tell if the troops belonged to the regular Russian army or were from Russian-controlled separatist units, The Guardian reported.

However, the footage will raise fears that Russia could try to expand the territory the Moscow-backed rebels controlled, sparking a bloody conflict.

How much territory in the breakaway republics Russia will recognize will be one of the decisive factors in whether war will break out. Since 2014, Russia has been backing separatist groups fighting against Kyiv-backed forces, although the Kremlin has always denied involvement.

Leonid Kalashnikov, a Communist MP and head of the Russian state Duma's regional affairs committee, told RIA news agency that the recognition of the LPR and DPR would be "within the borders of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions," around two-thirds of which is controlled by Ukraine.

"That could mean endorsing separatist territorial claims and de facto war with Ukraine," the Financial Times reported.

However, another influential lawmaker, Andrei Klimov, said that Russia's recognition would only extend to the existing separatist borders.

Ahead of an emergency meeting of the U.K.'s emergency Cobra government committee to discuss sanctions on Moscow, U.K health minister Sajid Javid told Sky News on Tuesday "you can conclude that the invasion of Ukraine has begun."

The U.S. has announced it would impose new investment, trade and financing restrictions on the two pro-Russia regions.

Ukrainian troops
Ukrainian troops patrol in the town of Novoluhanske, eastern Ukraine, on February 19, 2022. Russian armored vehicles were filmed moving into the breakaway Moscow-backed republics in the Donbas region after Russian President Vladimir Putin announced they would be recognized. ARIS MESSINIS/Getty