At a military parade in Kyiv, President Petro Poroshenko accused Russia of sending military backup to pro-Moscow rebels. The Ukrainian President said that Russia wants to undermine Kyiv's attempts to move towards Europe.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko on Monday accused Russia of sending three military convoys over the border into the separatist-controlled east. "Just this week three big convoys crossed our border towards Lugansk, Donetsk and Debaltseve," he said.
Poroshenko accused Russia of having sent a total of up to 500 tanks, 400 artillery systems and up to 950 military armored vehicles to pro-Russian rebels, although he did not specify the time period for these deliveries.
Ukraine's president was speaking at a military parade in Kyiv to celebrate 24 years since independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. "The war for independence is still continuing and we can only claim victory by combining our defensive efforts, diplomatic talent, political responsibility and steely endurance," he said, adding that his country would continue to increase its troop numbers in order to fend off the attacks of separatist rebels.
Poroshenko is due to meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande in Berlin later on Monday, where the leaders are expected to discuss ways of tackling the latest wave of refugees entering Europe and the conflict in Ukraine.
Poroshenko, Mekel and Hollande are excpected to consider steps to end the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, now in its 16th month. A key focus of the talks is likely to be concerns that the fragile ceasefire deal hammered out in Minsk in February has collapsed following a recent upsurge in fighting between government forces and pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine's east. Russian President Vladimir Putin is not attending the Berlin meeting.
The talks in Berlin come as European Union leaders prepare to review the economic sanctions that the bloc has imposed on Russia, after linking them to the full implementation of the ceasefire deal.
Poroshenko said Ukraine was facing a precarious year, warning that Russia had several strategies to undermine Kyiv's attempts to move towards Europe. "We have to get through the [coming] 25th year of independence as if on brittle ice. We must understand that the smallest misstep could be fatal. The war for Ukrainian independence is continuing," he said.
Russia, which annexed Ukraine's Crimea territory last year, has dismissed accusations by NATO and other powers that it has sent arms and troops to back the separatist fighters in the east.
dr/msh (AFP, dpa, Reuters)