A Russian serviceman rides atop an armoured personnel
carrier through a field outside Kamensk-Shakhtinsky, Rostov
Region. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov
Ukraine says its artillery has destroyed part of a
Russian armoured column that entered its territory overnight
and said its forces came under shellfire from Russia in what
appeared to be a major military escalation between the
Russia's government denied its forces had crossed into
Ukraine, calling the Ukrainian report "some kind of fantasy",
and in turn raised its own serious concerns about activity by
the US-led NATO defence alliance near its borders.
Moscow accused Kiev of trying to sabotage aid deliveries to
eastern areas torn by fighting between pro-Russian
separatists and the Western-backed government of Moscow's
In a call to US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, as reported by
Russia's state news agency RIA, Defence Minister Sergei
Shoigu said Moscow was "seriously concerned" by increased
NATO activity and called for a ceasefire to get aid into
Ukraine. The agency did not specify what Western military
movements he meant.
NATO said there had been a Russian incursion into Ukraine,
which is not a member of its mutual defence pact, but it
avoiding calling it an invasion. Other European capitals
accused the Kremlin of escalating a conflict that has revived
Cold War-era animosities and chilled the region's struggling
The United Nations said it could not verify the reports from
the Ukrainian border but called for an immediate
Kiev and its Western allies have repeatedly accused Russia of
arming pro-Moscow separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine, and
of sending undercover military units onto Ukrainian soil.
They have also expressed concern Russia may use an aid convoy
it has assembled on the border as a pretext for stoking the
It was not clear whether the armoured column was officially
part of the Russian army on active service. But evidence of
Russian military vehicles captured or destroyed on Ukrainian
territory would give extra force to Kiev's allegations - and
possibly spark a new round of sanctions against the Kremlin.
Andriy Lysenko, a spokesman for the Ukrainian military, told
a news briefing that Kiev's forces had picked up a Russian
military column crossing the border under cover of darkness.
"Appropriate actions were undertaken and a part of it no
longer exists," Lysenko said.
The situation in the conflict zone was becoming increasingly
tense, he said, with Ukrainian forces which are fighting
pro-Russian separatists also coming under artillery attack
from Russian territory.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko briefed British Prime
Minister David Cameron on the incident and told him a
"significant" part of the Russian column had been destroyed,
according to statement from Poroshenko's office.
But Russia's Defence Ministry said no such military force had
crossed the border into eastern Ukraine. State news agency
RIA quoted a ministry statement saying: "There was no Russian
military column that crossed the Russian-Ukrainian border
either at night or during the day."
It called the Ukrainian report "some kind of fantasy".
Britain summoned Russia's ambassador to ask him to clarify
reports of a military incursion into Ukraine, and European
Union foreign ministers said any unilateral military actions
by Russia in Ukraine would be a blatant violation of
"WE HAVE TO TALK"
In a sign of efforts to unwind the crisis, the Kremlin said
the Ukrainian and Russian chiefs of presidential staff met in
Russia on Friday and the Ukrainian foreign minister said he
would meet his Russian counterpart in Berlin on Sunday.
Earlier on Friday, responding to reports that a Russian
column had entered Ukraine overnight, NATO Secretary-General
Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the alliance had seen what he
called a Russian incursion into Ukraine.
"It just confirms the fact that we see a continuous flow of
weapons and fighters from Russia into eastern Ukraine and it
is a clear demonstration of continued Russian involvement in
the destabilisation of eastern Ukraine," the NATO chief said.
A spokesman for Russia's border guard service was also quoted
by Russian news agencies as denying that any Russian military
units had entered Ukraine.
In a statement issued by the Russian foreign ministry, Moscow
accused Ukrainian forces of intensifying the fighting against
pro-Moscow separatists in eastern Ukraine in an attempt to
sabotage Russian efforts to get aid into rebel-held areas.
A caravan of 280 trucks taking Russian aid to eastern Ukraine
was parked on the Russian side of the border on Friday.
The International Committee of the Red Cross said it would
deliver the aid after Kiev expressed fear the convoy could be
used to help the rebels and urged both sides on Friday to
agree quickly on how it should be done.
After Ukraine reported the clash, Russia's rouble currency
weakened against both the dollar and the euro. Russian shares
were also dragged lower.
Global equity markets retreated and yields on benchmark
German government bonds - a traditional safe haven for
investors - plumbed record lows below 1 percent.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin said in a Twitter
post he would meet Russia's Sergei Lavrov and the German and
French foreign ministers on Sunday in Berlin: "It can be at a
square table or a round table," he said. "But we have to