Ukraine accuses Russia of invasion after aid convoy crosses border
Ukraine declared today that Russia had launched a "direct invasion" of its territory after Moscow sent a convoy of aid trucks across the border into eastern Ukraine where pro-Russian rebels are fighting government forces.
Moscow, which has thousands of troops close on the Russian side of the border, warned against any attempt to "disrupt" the convoy but did not specify what action it was prepared to take if Kiev's forces intervened.
Kiev, for its part, said Ukrainian forces would not attack the convoy and had allowed it to pass to avoid "provocations".
"Ukraine will liaise with the International Committee of the Red Cross so that we, Ukraine, are not involved in provocations (accusations) that we have been holding up or using force against the vehicles of so-called aid," he told journalists.
The Ukraine conflict has driven relations between Moscow and the West to their lowest level since the Cold War, with Western states imposing sanctions on Moscow and the Kremlin retaliating. NATO has deployed extra troops in member states bordering Russia.
Ukrainian authorities gave the number of trucks which had crossed variously as 34 and 90.
"They passed into Ukraine without clearance or participation of the International Red Cross or (Ukrainian) border guards," Ukrainian military spokesman Andriy Lysenko told journalists.
"We consider this a direct invasion by Russia of Ukraine," Ukrainian state security chief Valentyn Nalivaychenko said in a separate statement to journalists.
In response to a question whether Ukraine would use air strikes against the convoy, Nalivaychenko said: "Against them, no."
But Ukrainian authorities said the convoy would pass through an area where the rebels were firing and that therefore its security could not be guaranteed.
Luhansk region has been a major focus of conflict in recent days between rebels, who have declared an independent republic, and Ukrainian forces. Luhansk city itself has seen fighting.
Moscow had earlier expressed impatience with holdups at the frontier.