Nato and Ukraine have said that Russian military vehicles did cross into Ukraine on Thursday night, while the Ukrainian President stated that most of them had been destroyed by his troops.
A statement on President Petro Poroshenko’s website said that he and David Cameron spoke by telephone about the reports in The Guardian and The Telegraph that Russian armoured personnel carriers (APCs) were seen crossing into Ukraine near the point where a Russian aid convoy was parked.
“The President informed [him] that the given information was trustworthy and confirmed because the majority of the machines had been eliminated by Ukrainian artillery at night,” the statement said.
Mr Poroshenko did not include any proof for this, and the Russians denied that the incursion had taken place.
Nato’s Secretary-General, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, said the Alliance had observed a Russian “incursion” into Ukraine. “What we have seen [Thursday] night is the continuation of what we have seen for some time,” he said during a visit to Copenhagen.
Russia’s ambassador to the UK, Alexander Yakovenko, was summoned to the Foreign Office to clarify the reports.
Earlier yesterday, Russia let Ukrainian officials inspect an aid convoy while it was still on Russian soil and agreed that the Red Cross can distribute the goods in Ukraine’s rebel-held city of Luhansk. The twin moves aimed to dispel Ukrainian fears that the operation was a ruse to get military help to the pro-Russian separatists.
Ukraine crisis: Russian 'aid' convoy
Ukraine crisis: Russian 'aid' convoy
1/11 Ukraine crisis
Drivers of the first trucks of the Russian aid convoy parked in the city of Luhansk on 22 August
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An employee inspects the contents of a truck with Russian humanitarian aid in Mariupol, Ukraine on 22 August 2014
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The convoy nearing the border before it parked at a camp in Russia
4/11 Ukraine crisis
Russian convoy carrying humanitarian aid for residents in rebel eastern Ukrainian regions moving along a road in the city of Voronezh, about 530 km from Moscow, Russia
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An Ukrainian border guard checks passing cars at a checkpoint of Pletnyovka, Kharkiv region on Ukraine-Russia border, where Russian humanitarian convoy is to cross the border
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Ukrainian border guards stand at the Ukrainian-Russian border crossing
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Trucks of a Russian convoy carrying humanitarian aid for Ukraine are parked at the military air base outside Voronezh
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Drivers of a Russian convoy of trucks carrying humanitarian aid for Ukraine take a rest on a side of a road near the city of Yelets
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An Ukrainian soldier stands guard at a checkpoint of Pletnyovka, Kharkiv region on Ukraine-Russia border, where Russian humanitarian convoy is to cross the border
10/11 Ukraine crisis
A Russian convoy carrying humanitarian aid for residents in rebel eastern Ukrainian regions moves along a road about 50 km from Voronezh, Russia, 14 August 2014. The convoy continues to advance through Russian territory after a one-day stop in Voronezh in full coordination with and under the aegis of the Red Cross, according to Russian authorities
11/11 Ukraine crisis
The Russian convoy carrying humanitarian aid in the Voronezh region of Russia en route to Ukraine
Breaking an earlier deal, Russia had sent the convoy of roughly 200 aid trucks towards a border crossing under the control of pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine, raising the prospect that it could enter without being inspected by Ukraine or the Red Cross.
Ukraine vowed to use all means necessary to block the convoy in such a scenario, leading to fears of an escalation in the fighting that has ravaged eastern Ukraine since April.
As tensions were raised, dozens of Russian military APCs were yesterday seen moving around the area where the trucks were parked, about 17 miles from the border in a Russian feild.
Moscow said that Russian forces were patrolling the border, but denied that any military vehicles had crossed into Ukraine.
The fighting in eastern Ukraine has claimed nearly 2,100 lives, half of those in the past few weeks. It began in April, a month after Vladimir Putin annexed Ukraine’s Black Sea peninsula of Crimea.
EU foreign ministers said in a statement after talks in Brussels yesterday that the European Union was “increasingly concerned at the worsening crisis in eastern Ukraine and its humanitarian impact on the civilian population.
“Any unilateral military actions on the part of the Russian Federation in Ukraine under any pretext, including humanitarian, will be considered by the EU as a blatant violation of international law,” it said. AP