A pro-Russian separatist stands guard nearby a rally in
support of Novorossiya (New Russia) on Lenin Square in the
center of the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk.
Russia has threatened Ukraine with "irreversible
consequences" after a Russian man was killed by a shell fired
across the border, while Kiev said Ukrainian warplanes struck
again at separatist positions in the east of the country,
inflicting big losses.
Although both sides have reported cross-border shootings in
the past, it appears to be the first time Moscow has reported
fatalities on its side of the border in the three-month
conflict which has killed hundreds of people in Ukraine.
Kiev called the accusation its forces had fired across the
border "total nonsense" and suggested the attack could have
been the work of rebels trying to provoke Moscow to intervene
on their behalf. The rebels denied they were responsible.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, who earlier turned down
an invitation to attend the World Cup soccer final in Brazil
where he may have met Russia's Vladimir Putin, accused
Russian forces of crossing the border and attacking Ukrainian
In a telephone conversation with the European Union's Herman
Van Rompuy, he called on the EU to consider "the illegal
crossing of the Russian-Ukrainian border of heavy military
equipment and an attack by Russian soldiers on the positions
of Ukrainian servicemen," his website said.
His comments were linked to an earlier report on Sunday by
the government's "anti-terrorist operation" that a convoy of
about 100 separatist armoured vehicles and trucks had crossed
into Ukraine carrying rebel fighters from Russia. A Ukrainian
military spokesman said Ukrainian artillery had destroyed the
Combat has intensified dramatically in Ukraine since a rebel
missile attack killed dozens of government troops on Friday.
Ukrainian forces said their warplanes on Sunday carried out
five air strikes on rebel bases near Luhansk airport, at
Izvarino on the border and against Chechen fighters who it
said had occupied a National Guard base at Lysychansk.
"The enemy suffered significant losses of men and equipment,"
a statement from the "anti-terrorist operation" said, adding
the attacks had sown "fear and panic" among the rebels.
Rebels controlling Luhansk, on the border with Russia, said
Ukrainian forces had now begun to storm the town with about
50 tanks and attack planes. There was no word of this from
the Ukrainian side.
In other incidents, local officials said 18 civilians had
been killed in shooting in Luhansk and Donetsk, the region's
main city, which is also controlled by separatists. There
were no details of these incidents.
Moscow's bellicose response to the cross-border shelling
raises again the prospect of Russian intervention, after
weeks in which President Vladimir Putin had appeared intent
on disengaging, pulling back tens of thousands of troops he
had massed at the frontier.
Russia sent Ukraine a note of protest describing the incident
as "an aggressive act by the Ukrainian side against sovereign
Russian territory and the citizens of the Russian
Federation", the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement
warning of "irreversible consequences".
"This represents a qualitative escalation of the danger to
our citizens, now even on our own territory. Of course this
naturally cannot pass without a response," Russian Deputy
Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin told Rossiya-24 state TV.
Russia's Investigative Committee said a shell had landed in
the yard of a house in a small town on the Russian side of
the frontier, killing a man and wounding a woman. The Russian
town is called Donetsk, sharing the name of the Ukrainian
city of 1 million people that the rebels have declared
capital of an independent "people's republic".
Andriy Lysenko, spokesman for Ukraine's National Security and
Defence Council, said reports that Ukrainian forces were
responsible were "total nonsense and the information is
"The forces of the anti-terrorist operation do not fire on
the territory of a neighbouring country, and they do not fire
on residential areas," he said. "We have many examples of
terrorists carrying out provocation shooting, including into
Russian territory, and then accusing Ukrainian forces of it."
The Ukrainian foreign ministry echoed this view and called on
Russian authorities to carry out "an objective and impartial"
evaluation of what it described as "a tragic incident". It
said Ukrainian authorities would cooperate in any
The rebels denied blame. Interfax news agency quoted the
rebels' self-proclaimed first deputy prime minister, Andrey
Prugin, as saying he was "90 percent certain" it was
Ukrainian troops that had fired across the border.
The conflict in eastern Ukraine erupted in April when armed
pro-Russian fighters seized towns and government buildings,
weeks after Russia annexed Ukraine's Crimea peninsula in
response to the overthrow of a pro-Moscow president in Kiev.
The fighting has escalated sharply in recent days after
Ukrainian forces pushed the rebels out of their most heavily
fortified bastion, the town of Slaviansk.
DONETSK EMPTIES IN FEAR
Hundreds of rebels, led by a self-proclaimed defence minister
from Moscow, have retreated to the Ukrainian city of Donetsk,
built reinforcements and pledged to make a stand. The
once-bustling city has been emptying in fear of a battle.
"Everybody here is sitting on a suitcase. People are only
prevented from leaving by work - that is if they have any
work. If they (the Ukrainian forces) are going to bomb, then
I shall, of course, go, too," said Olga, 35.
On the streets there are fewer and fewer cars. Some drivers
no longer bother to stop at red lights since there are no
police around and few vehicles.
Rebel fighters vowed to fight to the end if the army comes.
"We are ready for them. We will not leave. Let women and
children leave. But I don't care much for grown men going.
They are cowards, rascals, scum," said a man named Lis, who
described himself as an officer in the Vostok battalion, a
Kiev says Moscow has provoked the rebellion and allowed
fighters and heavy weapons to cross the border with impunity.
It has struggled to reassert control over the eastern
frontier, recapturing border positions from rebels.
The past two days have seen an escalation in retaliation
after dozens of Ukrainian troops were killed in a rocket
attack on a base near the border on Friday. Kiev said it
killed hundreds of rebels in air strikes on Saturday,
although there was no independent confirmation of such high
casualties and the rebels denied suffering serious losses.
Ukrainian security spokesman Lysenko said on Sunday that
forces had used artillery to strike a convoy of about 100
armoured vehicles and trucks after confirming that the convoy
was carrying "a large number of recruits" into Ukraine from
He said seven Ukrainian service members had died in attacks
in the east in the past day.
The Donetsk city council said in a statement on its website
on Sunday that 12 people had been killed at a mining
settlement near the Ukrainian city. It gave no details of who
had fired. Municipal authorities in Luhansk, capital of the
other rebellious eastern province, said six people were
killed in clashes there. It also gave no details of who was
Western countries have threatened to impose harsh economic
sanctions on Moscow if it intervenes openly. Russia denies
fuelling the conflict, but Kiev and Western countries say it
has supported the rebels.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Russia's Putin, meeting
briefly on Sunday before the soccer final in Brazil, called
for a stepping-up of peace efforts in Ukraine, Putin's
The pair have been in regular telephone contact over the
Ukraine crisis, with Merkel urging Putin to use his influence
with pro-Russian separatists to help bring about an end to
fighting in the east of the former Soviet republic.
Poroshenko in his telephone conversation with Van Rompuy said
Ukraine also wanted the release of all "hostages" held by
Russia including Nadezhda Savchenko, a military helicopter
pilot seized by rebels who is now being held in Russia.