U.S. says Russia must pull convoy from Ukraine or face more sanctions

13:00 | 23.08.2014
U.S. says Russia must pull convoy from Ukraine or face more sanctions

U.S. says Russia must pull convoy from Ukraine or face more sanctions

The United States demanded Moscow remove an aid convoy it sent into rebel-held eastern Ukraine without permission on Friday, accusing Russia of a flagrant violation of the sovereignty of its former Soviet neighbor and threatening more sanctions, reports Reuters.

Moscow, which has thousands of troops close to the Russian side of the border, warned against any attempt to "disrupt" the convoy, which it said was purely humanitarian. It did not say what action it might take if the Ukrainian military intervened.

NATO's top military commander said the movement of trucks looked like a disguised attempt to reinforce separatist forces.

The Western defense alliance said Russian troops had been firing artillery across the border and within Ukraine in a major escalation of military support for pro-Moscow rebels since mid-August, a defacto charge that Russia was already waging war.

White House Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes said Washington planned to discuss the situation with the U.N. Security Council on Friday and that if the convoy was not pulled out, the Russians would face "additional costs".

"We have seen the use of Russian artillery in Ukraine in the past days," he said, when asked about the NATO statement.

Moscow denies backing the rebels militarily but the United States and European Union have imposed sanctions and the Kremlin has retaliated, renewing some of the chill of the Cold War. NATO has deployed extra troops in member states bordering Russia, including former Soviet Baltic states and ex-communist Poland.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko described the entry of the trucks without Kiev's permission as a "flagrant violation of international law". But a senior security chief said Ukrainian forces would let them pass to avoid "provocations".

Kiev called on international allies to unite in "a decisive condemnation of illegal and aggressive actions" by Russia.

NATO also said Russia risked further international isolation. It has ruled out intervening militarily on behalf of Ukraine, which is not a member, and Europe has been reluctant to step up sanctions due to trade ties and its need for Russian gas.

Russia said it was not breaching international law and that Russian President Vladimir Putin had told German Chancellor Angela Merkel in a telephone call Moscow had been unable to wait any longer for Kiev's green light to help people in distress.

Merkel, who also spoke to Poroshenko, expressed her great concern, praising the Ukrainians for a "prudent" reaction and calling for a speedy ceasefire and shoring up of the frontier.


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