BBC Online :
A rebel leader in eastern Ukraine has said a convoy of military hardware is on its way to the region from Russia.
Alexander Zakharchenko, self-proclaimed PM of the Donetsk rebel area, said 150 vehicles and 1,200 personnel were approaching their border.
Russia has denied claims by Ukraine and Western reporters that military aid to the rebels is crossing over.
Meanwhile a controversial humanitarian aid convoy from Russia is stalled on the Russian side of the border.
The convoy is apparently awaiting inspection by Ukrainian border guards, as Russia, Ukraine and the Red Cross decide how the aid will be delivered.
On Friday Russian Defence Minister Sergey Shoygu assured his US counterpart Chuck Hagel that there were no Russian military personnel involved with the convoy, nor would it be used as a pretext for further intervention. Journalists inspected some of the vehicles on Friday.
Zakharchenko, who became self-declared prime minister of the “Donetsk People’s Republic” (DPR) last week, is seen on a video posted on YouTube addressing the region’s self-styled parliament.
“I’d like to give you some good news,” he says. “At present, moving towards the corridor [a link across the border into Russia established by the rebels] are… 150 items of military hardware, 30 of which are tanks and the rest are infantry fighting vehicles and armoured personnel carriers.”
He added that the vehicles were accompanied by 1,200 personnel who had received four months’
training in Russia. The announcement came a day after Ukraine said it had partially destroyed an armoured column that had crossed from Russia overnight on Thursday. The alleged incursion was witnessed by two UK newspaper reporters.
Russia’s defence ministry said the incursion reports were “some kind of fantasy”, and Moscow has consistently denied directly arming or training the rebels. But the incident prompted a flurry of Western condemnation.
“Any unilateral military actions on the part of the Russian Federation in Ukraine under any pretext, including humanitarian, will be considered by the European Union as a blatant violation of international law,” a statement by EU foreign ministers issued on Friday says.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel told Russian President Vladimir Putin in a phone call on Friday to “put an end to the flow of military goods, military advisers and armed personnel over the border”.
The conflict in Ukraine’s east, which has claimed more than 2,000 lives, has intensified in recent weeks. The violence began in April when pro-Russian rebels seized government buildings and tried to declare independence.
The Ukrainian military launched an operation to retake the region and stepped up its activities in June.
BBC Online :