13 Jun 2014

Russia blamed as tanks ‘cross Ukrainian border’

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko tells Vladimir Putin that reports of tanks crossing the country’s border from Russia are “unacceptable”.

Pro-Russian separtists in Ukraine

On Friday Ukraine’s Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said, according to intelligence and surveillance, tanks, armoured personnel carriers, armoured vehicles and artillery had been seen crossing the border over the past three days.

Mr Avakov stopped short of saying that the military hardware was Russian, but criticised Moscow for not standing by its pledge to “strengthen border controls”.

“According to intelligence and surveillance, despite the Russian Federation’s statements that it welcomes the peace process and that the order has been given to strengthen border controls, we have been observing within last three days columns passing through check points captured by terrorists in the Dyakove area,” Mr Avakov told reporters in Kiev.

“We reported columns passing through these check points with armoured personnel carriers, vehicles, including armoured vehicles, artillery pieces, and this morning three tanks, which according to our information, came across the border and this morning were in Snizhnye.

“After that, two of them moved toward Gorlovka. They were attacked by our armed forces. It is fighting going on. I can not say about the final result. But I can say that part of the column has been destroyed.”

Donetsk blast

Russia has repeatedly denied providing military assistance to rebels in eastern Ukraine, and Moscow has not yet responded to the claims.

However, there had been positive signs when Mr Putin and Mr Poroshenko met on D-Day in France. The men shook hands and called for an end to the bloodshed.

Mariupol retaken

However, the fighting in Ukraine is still continuing, and on Friday it was reported that Kiev’s forces had regained control of the port of Mariupol – one of the flash points in the conflict.

Soldiers were reported to have raised the national flag over the southeastern city’s main administrative building.

A ministry aide said government forces stormed the rebels after they were surrounded and given 10 minutes to surrender. At least five separatists and two servicemen were killed in the battle before many of the rebels fled.

Mariupol, which has changed hands several times in weeks of conflict, is strategically important because it lies on major roads from the southeastern border with Russia into the rest of Ukraine and steel is exported through the port.

On Thursday a car bomb explosion in Donetsk injured four people, one seriously (pictured above).