Ukraine’s interior minister said Thursday that three Russian tanks crossed into Ukrainian territory and were attacked by Ukrainian forces. The Russian foreign ministry has denied the troop movements.
"We have observed columns passing with armoured personnel carriers, other armoured vehicles and artillery pieces, and tanks which, according to our information, came across the border and this morning were in Snizhnye," Ukrainian Interior Minister Arseny Avakov told reporters in Kiev.
Reuters correspondents confirmed seeing three tanks in Snizhnye, a border town in eastern Ukraine.
Avakov said that “part of this column has been destroyed” by Ukrainian forces fighting pro-Moscow separatists in the region.
There was no independent confirmation that the tanks had indeed come from Russia, but in Washington, US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said if the military incursion was confirmed, it would be a “serious and disturbing escalation of the crisis in eastern Ukraine”.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, who took office less than a week ago, told Russian President Vladimir Putin in a phone call Thursday that it was “unacceptable” that tanks had crossed the border, according to his spokesman, Svyatoslav Tsegolko.
The alleged incursion comes as Russian President Vladimir Putin held phone talks Thursday with his Ukrainian counterpart, Petro Poroshenko, on plans for defusing the crisis.
"Ukraine's president notified Vladimir Putin of his plan to settle the situation in Ukraine's southeast," Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Russian news agencies.
Putin last week said that he welcomed plans put forward by Poroshenko to stop the violence in Ukraine, saying that Poroshenko was taking the “right approach” to the crisis.
However, he also said Ukraine must stop what he called a “punitive” military operation in the southeast and warned that Russia would retaliate with measures to protect its economy if Kiev signed an association pact with the European Union.
Russia said it would submit a new draft resolution on Ukraine at the UN Security Council on Thursday.
"In this resolution we would like to draw attention to the need for Ukraine to start implementing the OSCE chairman's 'road map' prepared on the basis of the April 17 Geneva agreement," Russian news agencies quoted Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov as saying.
(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS, AP and AFP)
Date created : 2014-06-12