UK & World News

  • 12 June 2014, 19:30

Ukraine Accuses Russia Of Sending In Tanks

Ukraine's interior minister has accused Russia of allowing tanks to cross its border to help pro-Russian separatists there.

Arsen Avakov said that a "column" with armoured vehicles crossed from Russia through border control points controlled by pro-Russian separatists near the Dyakove village in eastern Ukraine.

Mr Avakov said that "part of this column has been destroyed" by Ukrainian forces.

Russia did not immediately respond to the accusations but Reuters correspondents reportedly saw three tanks in the border town of Snizhnye in east Ukraine.

Meanwhile Russia has begun military exercises in its Baltic enclave of Kaliningrad in what the Defence Ministry said was a response to drills by Nato allies in parts of eastern Europe that were launched after Moscow's intervention in Ukraine.

In addition, Latvia said that Nato fighters that carry out air patrols over the Baltics scrambled a record four times on Thursday after a total of 16 Russian military planes were spotted close to Latvia's airspace.

Ukraine's Defence Ministry did not outline the scale of the Russian exercises but said the equipment and number of troops involved "corresponds" to the size of the Nato manoeuvres.

"The training of the army's group in the Kaliningrad operational (theatre) is being held simultaneously with the international (Nato) exercises of Saber Strike-2014 and BALTOPS-2014 launched in Europe," its statement said.

Kaliningrad is a sliver of territory that is unconnected to the rest of Russia and sandwiched between Nato member states Lithuania and Poland.

NATO countries responded to Russia's annexation of Crimea by sending fighter planes and ships to eastern Europe to reassure allies alarmed by Russia's action.

The alliance and its member states have also stepped up military exercises in eastern Europe, including the three former Soviet republics in the Baltics - Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania - that now belong to the Western alliance.

Meanwhile, in Ukraine, a former presidential candidate and backer of the pro-Russian separatist movement said he planned to ship food, medicine and money to the eastern part of his country.

Oleg Tsarev said on a visit to Donetsk that his People's Front movement had opened an office in Moscow and was preparing to distribute aid, in conjunction with the self-declared people's republics in eastern Ukraine.

It came as newly sworn-in Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and Russian leader Vladimir Putin discussed moves to end violence in east Ukraine during a phone conversation.

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