Ukraine crisis: Moscow denies it has troops in Ukraine, as 200 empty Russian 'aid' lorries cross back over the border

Kiev and others – including the US, the EU and Nato – have denounced the move as a violation of sovereignty

Donetsk

Hundreds of lorries from what was described by Moscow as a Russian aid convoy rolled back across the border from rebel-held eastern Ukraine yesterday. But questions about alleged Russian artillery in Ukraine remain.

Nato said on Friday it had mounting evidence that Russian troops were operating inside Ukraine and launching artillery attacks at Ukrainian troops from Ukrainian soil as well as from Russia. Moscow's ambassador to the UN denied this.

Paul Picard, head of the border observation mission for the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), said that all the vehicles that had crossed into Ukraine had returned to Russia by yesterday afternoon. Deputy emergencies minister Eduard Chizhikov was quoted as saying 227 vehicles had taken part.

On the side of the road, those peering inside the white tarpaulined trailers confirmed they were empty. Russia said the lorries carried only food, water, generators and sleeping bags to the hard-hit rebel stronghold of Luhansk. The lorries were sent by Moscow into Ukraine through a rebel-held border point on Friday, with the Kremlin saying it had lost patience with Ukraine's delaying tactics. Ukraine called the act an "invasion".

Ukraine and others – including the US, the EU and Nato – denounced the Russian move as a violation of Ukraine's sovereignty. Kiev and Western countries also suggested the convoy could be used to smuggle supplies and reinforcements to pro-Russian separatists.

An employee inspects the contents of a truck with Russian humanitarian aid in Mariupol, Ukraine on 22 August 2014 An employee inspects the contents of a truck with Russian humanitarian aid in Mariupol, Ukraine on 22 August 2014 German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has advocated a measured EU response to Russia's aggressive policies in Ukraine, met Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko in Kiev yesterday and urged a political solution to the crisis.

Mr Poroshenko said Ukraine was willing to try to solve the conflict by talks, but not at the expense of his country's territorial integrity or sovereignty. The rebels in the east have declared the region independent and some have sought to be annexed by Russia. Ukraine has retaken control of much of its eastern territory bordering Russia in the past few weeks, but fierce fighting for the rebel-held cities of Donetsk and Luhansk persists.

Mr Poroshenko and Russian President Vladimir Putin are to meet on Tuesday in Belarus's capital Minsk. Asked what message he intended to convey, Mr Poroshenko said: "Take away your armed people from our territory and peace will come very soon."

Ukraine's President-elect Petro Poroshenko (left) and Russian President Vladimir Putin Ukraine's President-elect Petro Poroshenko (left) and Russian President Vladimir Putin "There must be two sides to be successful. You cannot achieve peace on your own. I hope the talks with Russia will lead to success," said Ms Merkel. "The plans are on the table. Now actions must follow."

It remained unclear yesterday what the Russian convoy had actually delivered, since the convoy arrived only late Friday afternoon. Unloading hundreds of lorries in just a few hours in a war-battered region is a sizeable task. Journalists following the convoy to Luhansk said rattling sounds from some of the lorries indicated they were not fully loaded.

At the United Nations in New York, Russian ambassador Vitaly Churkin rejected Nato's accusations that Russian troops and artillery were inside Ukraine. Russia has steadfastly denied supporting and arming the rebels.

In Donetsk, residents reported artillery strikes throughout Friday night and Saturday morning. The mayor's office said three people were killed, including two who had been waiting for a bus.

Despite the continuing conflict, today military hardware will be paraded through the streets of central Kiev as part of events to mark Ukraine's independence day. The parade has attracted criticism given the country's bloody civil war. Supporters say the parade should boost morale in Ukraine's army. On the 23rd anniversary of Ukrainian independence there will also be large parades in Kiev and Odessa.

AP

News
Shoppers at Selfridges department store in central London
black friday
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
filmDirector said film would 'never have been financed' with ethnic minority actors in key roles
Life and Style
View of champagne glasses at a beach bar set up along the Croisette during the 66th edition of the Cannes Film Festival in Cannes on May 17, 2013
food + drink(and for now, there's a clear winner)
News
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
News
Irradiated turkey and freeze dried mash potato will be on the menu this thanksgiving
video
News
Andy Murray with his girlfriend of nine years, Kim Sears who he has got engaged to
peopleWimbledon champion announces engagement to girlfriend Kim Sears
Arts and Entertainment
George Mpanga has been shortlisted for the Critics’ Choice prize
music
Arts and Entertainment
Roisin, James and Sanjay in the boardroom
tvReview: This week's failing project manager had to go
News
Ed Miliband visiting the Holocaust museum in Jerusalem. The Labour leader has spoken more openly of his heritage recently
newsAttacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But are the barbs more sinister?
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Associate Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree are seeking Associate Recruitm...

SThree: Associate Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree are seeking Associate Recruitm...

Citifocus Ltd: ACA - Financial Reporting

£Attractive Package: Citifocus Ltd: Chartered accountant (ACA or CPA), must be...

Langley James : Senior Infrastructure Engineer; VMWare, Windows; Disley; £40k

£40000 per annum + benefits: Langley James : Senior Infrastructure Engineer; V...

Day In a Page

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game
There's a Good Girl exhibition: How female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising

In pictures: There's a Good Girl exhibition

The new exhibition reveals how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover - from advent calendars to doll's houses

UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover

It worked with cupcakes, doughnuts and macarons so no wonder someone decided to revamp the humble biscuit
Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

It's no surprise that the building game born in Sweden in 2009 and now played by millions, has imitators keen to construct their own mega money-spinner
The King's School is way ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology

Staying connected: The King's School

The school in Cambridgeshire is ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology. Richard Garner discovers how teachers and pupils stay connected
Christmas 2014: 23 best women's perfumes

Festively fragrant: the best women's perfumes

Give a loved one a luxe fragrance this year or treat yourself to a sensual pick-me-up
Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition

Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund

The Ox celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition
Billy Joe Saunders vs Chris Eubank Jnr: When two worlds collide

When two worlds collide

Traveller Billy Joe Saunders did not have a pampered public-school upbringing - unlike Saturday’s opponent Chris Eubank Jnr
Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?