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US accuses Russia of 'escalation'

August 16, 2014

Washington has urged Russia to put an end to "extremely dangerous and provocative" attempts to cause further destabilization of Ukraine. It accused Russia of an "escalation" following an alleged Russian incursion.

Russian military personnel sit atop an armoured vehicle outside Kamensk-Shakhtinsky, Rostov Region, August 15, 2014. Dozens of heavy Russian military vehicles amassed on Friday near the border with Ukraine where a huge Russian convoy with humanitarian aid came to a halt as Moscow and Kiev struggled to agree border crossing procedures. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov
Image: Reuters

The White House late on Friday accused Russia of extreme provocation in destabilizing Ukraine, while stopping short of confirming a claim by Kyiv that a Russian military column had strayed into Ukraine.

National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said "the escalation in Russian activity designed to destabilize Ukraine in recent weeks is extremely dangerous and provocative."

Although Hayden said Ukrainian reports that Russian vehicles had entered its territory still had to be verified, there were other signs of Russia escalating the crisis in recent weeks.

"Even as we work to gather information, we reiterate our concern about repeated Russian and Russian-supported incursions into Ukraine," Hayden said.

"Russia has no right to send vehicles, persons, or cargo of any kind into Ukraine, under any pretext, without the government of Ukraine's permission."

Russia dismisses 'fantasy'

Hayden said that Russian interference included the supply of tanks, armored vehicles and artillery, as well as multiple-rocket launchers to separatist rebels in the eastern provinces of Donetsk and Luhansk. She added that some artillery and rockets had been fired from Russian territory.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko on Friday claimed that the country's military had destroyed a Russian military column that had ventured into Ukraine overnight.

"The majority of the vehicles was destroyed by the Ukrainian artillery at night," Poroshenko was reported to have said by his own presidential office.

Moscow insisted that none of its military vehicles had entered Ukraine, with the Russian Defense Ministry dismissing the alleged military column as "some fantasy."

"No such Russian military column did exist - not at night and not at day," the ministry said.

Russia and Ukraine continued to wrangle about the entry of a separate convoy, said by Moscow to be carrying humanitarian aid into the eastern regions of Ukraine. Kyiv has said it suspects the convoy, parked on the Russian side of the border, could be a "Trojan horse" to provide military help to the insurgents.

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