December 22, 2014
Breakthrough hopes dented as Ukraine accuses Russia of new incursion
Ukraine accused Russia of launching a new military incursion across its eastern border, as hopes quickly faded that Tuesday's talks between their two presidents might mark a turning point in a five-month-old crisis.
Accusations of direct Russian support for pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine have prompted Western governments to impose sanctions on Moscow, despite its denials, and fanned tensions with NATO to levels not seen since the Cold War.
Ukrainian military spokesman Andriy Lysenko said a group of Russian soldiers had crossed the border in armoured infantry carriers and a truck and entered the town of Amvrosiyivka, not far from where Ukraine detained 10 Russian soldiers on Monday.
Ukraine's Security Services also said in a statement it had detained another Russian soldier in the east of the country who has confessed his unit provided military support to separatist rebels.
Lysenko said fighting in two other towns, Horlivka and Ilovaysk, had killed about 200 pro-Russian rebels and destroyed tanks and missile systems. Thirteen Ukrainian service personnel had been killed in the past 24 hours and 36 had been wounded.
No comment was immediately available from the Russian defence ministry on the alleged incursion. Russia denies sending weapons and soldiers to help the rebels, and says the men captured on Monday had crossed an unmarked section of the border by mistake.
Late-night talks in the Belarussian capital Minsk had appeared to yield some progress towards ending a war in which more than 2,200 people have been killed, according to the UN -- a toll that excludes the 298 who died when a Malaysian airliner was shot down over rebel-held territory in July.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said he would work on an urgent 'road map' towards a ceasefire with the rebels. Russia's Vladimir Putin said it would be for Ukrainians to work out ceasefire terms, but Moscow would "contribute to create a situation of trust".
But today’s new accusations from Ukraine made clear that the poisonous dispute over Russia's role remained unresolved.
In a telephone call with Putin, Germany's Angela Merkel said reports of a new Russian military incursion into Ukrainian territory had to be cleared up, a spokesman for the chancellor said in a statement.
"The latest reports of the presence of Russian soldiers on Ukrainian territory must be explained," said Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert. "She emphasised Russia's major responsibility for de-escalation and watching over its own frontiers."
The United States said new military incursions on Ukraine's eastern border indicate a Russian-directed counter-offensive is likely under way in two Ukrainian towns.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the military movement "would be consistent with the other kinds of destabilizing military activities that Russia has pursued in Ukraine".
Ukraine's State Security services said in a statement that it had detained a private in Ukraine's easternmost Luhansk Province from a unit stationed in Russia's Rostov region near the border with Ukraine.
The statement said that when questioned, he said his military unit transfers military equipment and ammunition including multiple rocket launchers BM-21 Grads as well as armoured personnel carriers to the rebels.