Russian leaders continue to deny engaging in military action against Ukraine despite reports that the Russia's troops are involved in illegal, "direct military operations" inside the war-torn counry.
"Despite Moscow's hollow denials, it is now clear that Russian troops and equipment have illegally crossed the border into eastern and south-eastern Ukraine," said NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussem on Friday.
"This is not an isolated action, but part of a dangerous pattern over many months to destabilize Ukraine as a sovereign nation." He also said Russia's continued military action "defies all diplomatic efforts for a peaceful solution."
An estimated 1,000 Russian troops have reportedly entered Ukraine and have been in direct 'contact' with Ukrainian soldiers. NATO also produced what it says are satellite images showing Russian troops engaged in military operations inside Ukraine.
According to the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Righs Navi Pillay, heavy fighting in densely populated areas of eastern Ukraine has led to the death and injury of many civilians trapped in urban areas. A new report released Friday, covering the month to August 17, said an average of 36 people were killed every day. The report also documents a "wide array of serious human rights abuses" committed by rebel fighters.
"There is an urgent need to end the fighting and violence in the eastern regions, before more civilians are harmed or forced to flee, or face intolerable hardships trapped inside the conflict zones," said the Commissioner.
On Thursday, President Obama blamed Russia for the escalating crisis, saying, "The violence is encouraged by Russia. The separatists are trained by Russia, they are armed by Russia, they are funded by Russia.'
He added that Russia had 'deliberately and repeatedly violated the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, and the new images of Russian forces inside Ukraine make that plain for the world to see.'
President Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Thursday agreed in a phone call that the United States and the European Union would have to consider additional sanctions on Russia.
Calling current sanctions against Russia "effective," he said it would face additional consequences for its repeated illegal military actions. Russia, he added, is "already more isolated than at any time since the end of the Cold War."
NBC reports that Ukraine is seeking to work towards becoming part of the U.S.-led security alliance,and Prime Minister Minister Arseny Yatseniuk also said that his country still hopes to become a member of the European Union.