Experts at the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) say they have identified a Russian tank among a separatist column in eastern Ukraine, which they claim "strongly supports" concerns Russia is supplying arms to seperatists.
Joseph Dempsey, an IISS analyst, studied video footage taken in Sverdlovsk, Luhansk, reportedly showing a convoy of military vehicles with flags associated with the separatist movement visible on them in August.
Mr Dempsey told the BBC the convoy includes at least three T-72B1 Main Battle Tanks (MBTs) and more modern T-72 variant.
He said the T-72 variant, which is distinguished by the Kontakt-5 Explosive Reactive Armour (ERA) arrangement, is operated by the Russian army – but is not known to have been “exported or operated” outside of Russia.
The IISS says its alleged presence in Ukraine “strongly supports” claims Russia is supplying arms to separatist forces, an accusation Moscow has strongly denied.
Meanwhile, the mayor of Novoazovsk said heavily armed pro-Russian separatists have seized the south-eastern resort town of 40,000 on the Azov Sea and are heading to Mariupol.
Novoazovsk lies along the road linking Russia to the Ukrainian port of Mariupol and on to Crimea, the Black Sea peninsula annexed by Russia in March.
In pictures: The Ukraine crisis
In pictures: The Ukraine crisis
1/39 Ukraine crisis
Ukrainian soldiers from the 'Azov' battalion guard their base in Mariupol, Donetsk
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Children were transferred from orphanages in Donetsk and Makeyevka to escape the fighting between the Ukrainian army and pro-Russian separatists
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Ukrainian servicemen captured by pro-Russian separatists sit on the ground as they are assigned to clean a street in Snizhne in the Donetsk region
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A view inside the Youth Culture Centre destroyed by pro-Russian separatists in Donetsk
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A woman holds a portrait of her dead son as she speaks during a rally in front of Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko's office in Kiev
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A boy ascends the stairs of a bomb shelter after the shelling in the Petrovskiy district in Donetsk
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A medic looks at thirty coffins prepared for the funerals of pro-Russian rebels killed during heavy fighting at Donetsk airport, outside a Donetsk morgue
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Relatives mourn near the coffin of Mark Zverev, a taxi driver shot dead during clashes at the Donetsk airport between Ukrainian troops and the pro-Russian rebels, during his funeral in the village of Grabari on the outskirts of Donetsk
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Medical workers carry a wounded pro-Russian militant on a stretcher after armed clashes occured between pro-Russian gunmen and Ukrainian troops in Slavyansk
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A member of a newly-formed pro-Russian armed group called the Russian Orthodox Army mans a barricade near Donetsk airport
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Black smoke rises from a shot down Ukrainian Army helicopter outside Slovyansk
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A woman is overcome with emotion as she looks at blood stains and damage around a wrecked truck of supporters of the self-proclaimed 'Donetsk People's Republic' on road leading to the Donetsk International Airport
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A local man looks at damage near a wrecked truck of supporters of the self-proclaimed 'Donetsk People's Republic' on road leading to the Donetsk International Airport
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A bloodstained icon of Jesus is seen among blood soaked shattered glass atop a wrecked truck near the Donetsk airport
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A family member attends a funeral for Olga Prokhorenko (60) who was killed by shrapnel after Ukrainian government forces shelled their location, during the funeral in Slovyansk
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A woman reacts after seeing the lifeless body of a man killed by shrapnel following a shelling from Ukrainian government forces in Slovyansk
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Pro-Russian militants take position on the roof of the international airport of the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk
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A woman embraces a pro-Russian separatist from the "East" battalion during a rally in the eastern city of Donetsk
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A Ukrainian helicopter Mi-24 gunship fires its cannons against rebels at the main terminal building of Donetsk international airport
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A pro-Russian gunman changes his position near the airport, outside Donetsk
21/39 Ukraine crisis
A pro-Russian gunman aims his weapon near the airport, outside Donetsk. Ukraine's military launched air strikes against separatists who had taken over the airport in the eastern capital of Donetsk in what appeared to be the most visible operation of the Ukrainian troops since they started a crackdown on insurgents
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Pro-Russians ride on a truck in Donetsk. A convoy of an armored personnel carrier and seven trucks carrying several hundred heavily armed men drove through central Donetsk and gunmen got out of the trucks, stood to attention and gave shots in the air in jubilation as a crowd of several thousand supporters cheered them and chanted: "Heroes!"
23/39 Ukraine crisis
An elderly woman leans against the chest of a pro-Russian gunman in Lenin square in Donetsk
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Pro-Russian militants guard a psychiatric hospital after shell explosions during the fighting between pro-Russian militants and the Ukrainian army, in Semyonovka village, outside Slavyansk
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Ukrainian troops stand guard at a checkpoint on the road near the eastern city of Izum, Donetsk
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Members of the Democratic Alliance party take part in a performance in front of the French embassy in Kiev. Protesters set up a pool with the blood of animals and models of warships in a protest against French plans for the sale of two Mistral helicopter carriers to the Russian Navy
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A man carries a portrait of pro-Russian activist Vadim Hudich, who was killed in a shooting incident at the head of a funeral procession in the eastern Ukranian town of Krasnoarmeisk
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A voter is seen inside a voting booth at a polling station during the referendum on the status of Donetsk region in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk
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Members of a local election commission sort ballots as they start counting votes of referendum on the status of Luhansk region in Luhansk
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Members of a local election commission empty a ballot box as they start counting votes of the referendum on the status of Donetsk region in Donetsk
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Members of a local election commission empty ballot boxes as they start counting votes after a referendum, at a polling station in Lugansk
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Local residents watch as others give first aid to a man who was shot in the leg by Ukranian militia in the village of Krasnoarmisk. Eyewitness said that Ukranian militia tried to stop the referendum voters briefly taking the City Hall of Krasnoarmisk, where unarmed pro-Russian supporters were gathering. Reportedly the Ukranian militia came out out the building and started shooting at the people, killing at least one man and leaving at least two others injured
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Members of a local election commission count votes after a referendum organized by the so-called Donetsk People's Republic members at a polling station in Donetsk
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Voters visit a polling station to take part in the referendum on the status of Donetsk
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An Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC) with a Russian flag drives through the center of Slaviansk during the day of referendum organized by the so-called Donetsk People's Republic members in Slavyansk
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A statue of Lenin is placed in front of a pro-Russian barricade on the outskirts of the eastern Ukrainian town of Slavyansk
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A feamle veteran (C) sings during 'Victory Day' celebrations in Donetsk
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People stand near the burning Mariupol police station
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Ukrainian soldiers stand guard beside an armoured personnel carrier at a checkpoint in Mariupol. Ukrainian forces seized the rebel-held city hall in the eastern port city of Mariupol, driving out pro-Russian activists, then withdrew, making no attempt to hold onto the building
There are concerns separatists could be seeking to create a land link between Russia and Crimea, which also would give them complete control over the entire Azov Sea.
Oleg Sidorkin, the mayor of Novoazovsk, said the rebel forces had entered the town from positions near Ukraine's southernmost border with Russia.
A pro-government militia fighter told Reuters military equipment is now in Novoazovsk, which came across the border two days ago from Russia. "The equipment is carrying the flags of the DNR (Donetsk People's Republic) rebels but they are regular Russian forces," he said.
A spokesman for the rebels told the Interfax news agency Novoazovsk is now under their control.
It comes as the German Chancellor Angela Merkel phoned the Russian President Vladimir Putin to demand an explanation on claims Russian troops have launched an incursion into Ukrainian territory.
Ukrainian military spokesman Andriy Lysenko said a group of Russian soldiers had crossed the border in armoured infantry carriers and a truck and entered the town of Amvrosiyivka, not far from where Ukraine detained 10 Russian soldiers on Monday.
"The latest reports of the presence of Russian soldiers on Ukrainian territory must be explained," said Ms Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert. "She emphasised Russia's major responsibility for de-escalation and watching over its own frontiers."
Washington has accused Russia of leading a fresh military campaign in Ukraine which is helping rebel forces expand their fight and sending in tanks, rocket launchers and armoured vehicles.
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said: "These incursions indicate a Russian-directed counter-offensive is likely under way in Donetsk and Luhansk."
Russian forces are being dispatched 30 miles inside Ukraine, she said. Ms Psaki also voiced concern about overnight deliveries of materiel in south-east Ukraine near Novoazovsk and said Russia was being dishonest about its actions, even to its own people.
However, Denis Pushilin, a rebel leader in Donetsk denied claims of Russia’s involvement. "If Russia entered into the war the counter-offensive would already be in Kiev. For now, we do without outside help," he said.Reuse content