Thousands of Russian troops may already be in Ukraine, military sources warned on Tuesday, just hours after Raussian President Vladimir Putin gave orders to his forces to enter the country amid fears that he is about to launch a land-grab in the country's east, Daily Mail reported.
Ten thousand soldiers entered separatist-occupied areas overnight, a source with links to Ukrainian military intelligence told MailOnline, with 6,000 sent to Donetsk, 5,000 sent to Luhansk, and 1,500 to the city of Horlivka.
"It is difficult to believe [Putin] could have moved that quickly - but he had a long time to prepare," the source said.
It came on the back of videos which showed a column of Russian vehicles rolling through Donetsk in the early hours, including tanks, armoured troop carriers and support trucks.
Insignia were not visible, but there was little doubt they were Russian forces deployed on Putin's orders, the report said.
Meanwhile, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Putin's order to recognise Donetsk and Luhansk as independent stretches to the entire provinces - not just the bits currently occupied by rebels - raising the prospect that he is about to launch a land-grab and spark direct confrontation with Ukrainian troops dug into trenches there, Daily Mail reported.
As Russian troops rolled in, fighting in the region escalated - with shells striking a power plant on the Ukrainian side of the line on Tuesday morning after explosions killed two of Kyiv's men and wounded 12 overnight, the report said.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz led world leaders in responding, announcing that the multi-billion dollar Nord Stream 2 gas pipe from Russia - a pet project of his predecessor Angela Merkel - will not be approved and that his country will begin looking elsewhere for gas to power its fossil-fuel dependent economy.
US President Joe Biden also slapped limited sanctions on rebel areas of Ukraine overnight, banning Americans from doing business there, but promised that harsher measures will follow.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is also expected to announce sanctions on Tuesday, with the EU set to follow suit after that.