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Trained in Russia?

August 17, 2014

A separatist leader in eastern Ukraine has claimed his own pro-Russian side is in the process of receiving hardware, as well as fighters trained in Russia. A high-level meeting on Ukraine is set to take place in Berlin.

A Donetsk People Republic's fighter looks on at a block-post near the city of Donetsk, eastern Ukraine Sunday, July 6, 2014, with a flag of St. George, a symbol widely associated with pro-Russian protests in Ukraine on the background. Driven out of their key stronghold in eastern Ukraine, pro-Russia separatists regrouped Sunday in the city of Donetsk, vowing to renew their fight against the government in Kiev before thousands of cheering supporters at a rally. (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky)
Image: picture-alliance/AP

Alexander Zakharchenko - who is prime minister of the self-proclaimed "Donetsk People's Republic" - said on Saturday his side was receiving new armored vehicles, as well as the Russian-trained fighters, at a crucial time in the separatists' battle with Kyiv.

In a video, Zakharchenko said his side were taking delivery of hardware, as well as welcoming fighters who were trained in Russia. The announcement about reinforcements came as separatists claimed to be making progress against government forces, reestablishing a supply line between the two regions of Donestsk and Luhansk.

"They are joining at the most crucial moment," Zakharchenko said in the video, referring to the trained militants. Although he did not specify where the vehicles came from, Zakharchenko said there were some 150 new armored vehicles, which included 30 tanks.

Meanwhile, Ukraine's National Security and Defense Council reported from Kyiv that the military operations would continue for some time. It said that retaking the areas held by rebels would require patience.

Berlin venue to seek progress

With Moscow already subject to EU and US sanctions over its annexation of Crimea and perceived interference in eastern Ukraine, the foreign ministers of Germany, France, Russia and Ukraine were set to meet in Berlin on Sunday.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko agreed in a phone call on Saturday that there must be an end to deliveries of weapons to separatists.

Russia, meanwhile, has denied Ukrainian allegations that its forces had crossed into Ukraine, denouncing a report saying that they had as "some kind of fantasy."

Meanwhile, a 280-truck Russian "humanitarian aid" convoy for the eastern regions was halted at the border with Ukraine after being put on hold while an agreement between the two countries was worked out. Kyiv said it was wary that the trucks could be used to carry arms.

rc/av (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)