Ukraine Battles Rebel Armoured Vehicles

lavrovThe Ukrainian military says it is battling rebel armoured vehicles that crossed from Russia and headed to the south-eastern city of Mariupol. It said the column was halted near the town of Novoa-zovsk.

One military commander said pro-Russian rebels might be trying to open up a new southern front.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said he had not heard the reports but complained of regular “disinformation about our ‘incursions'”.

He also said Russia planned to send another humanitarian convoy into eastern Ukraine “in the next few days” as the humanitarian situation there was “deteriorating”. Its first convoy, which returned at the weekend, crossed the border without Ukraine’s authorisa-tion.

Ukraine feared the convoy was carrying military equipment to the pro-Russian separatists and denounced it as an invasion.

More than 2,000 people have died in recent months in fighting between Ukrainian government forces and the separatists. Some 330,00 people have been displaced.

The Russian and Ukrainian presidents are scheduled to meet in Minsk, Belarus, today for talks on the crisis.

Ukraine’s military said border guards had halted the column about 5km (3 miles) north-east of Novoazovsk, which is about 10km from the frontier in the far south-east of Ukraine.

One commander of a Ukrainian national guard unit in the area told Reuters news agency: “A war has broken out here.”

Ukrainian sources said the armoured vehicles had crossed the border bearing symbols of the self-styled Donetsk People’s Republic. Officials said 10 tanks and two armoured personnel carriers were in the column although other reports said the number of vehicles was as high as 30.

Mariupol, a major port on the Azov Sea, is in the hands of Ukrainian government forces, who ousted rebels from the city in June after weeks of fighting.

A Ukrainian military spokesman said government forces still controlled Mariupol and the road to Novoazovsk.

Spokesman Andriy Lysenko said it was an attempt “by the Russian military in the guise of Donbass fighters (rebels) to open a new area of military confrontation”. The scene of most of the fighting has been much further north. — BBC

Mr Lysenko said there were enough resources to repel any attack.

When asked about the column, Mr Lavrov said: “I have not heard of this, but there is plenty of disinformation out there about our ‘incursions’.”

Ukraine and Western powers have accused Russia of arming the rebels, charges Moscow has denied.

Mr Lavrov said he had also sent a note to the Ukrainian foreign ministry on Sunday informing it of the new aid convoy.

He told a news conference on Monday: “The humanitarian situation is not improving but deteriorating.

“We want to reach an agreement on all conditions for delivering a second convoy by the same route… in the coming days.”

Russia said the first convoy had delivered generators, food and drink.

Asked about Tuesday’s presidential meeting, Mr Lavrov said: “We are ready… for any format as long as there is a result,” adding that Russia wanted “to help Ukrainians agree among themselves”.

Mr Lavrov also commented on the parading of captured Ukrainian government soldiers by rebels through the centre of Donetsk on Sunday.

Crowds lined the streets chanting “fascists” as the dishevelled-looking prisoners walked by.

Mr Lavrov said this was “nowhere near mistreatment” and that Ukrainian fighters’ actions often amounted to “war crimes”.

“I saw images of that parade and I didn’t see anything close to what could be considered as humiliating,” he said.

The violence in east Ukraine erupted in April when pro-Russian separatists in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions declared independence from Kiev. This followed Russia’s annexation of the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine in March.

BBC

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