The Red Cross will lead an international humanitarian aid operation with Russia and the European Union into the rebel-held city of Luhansk — a plan that Ukraine says the backing of President Barack Obama.
The Kremlin earlier announced that it was dispatching the humanitarian convoy into eastern Ukraine. Ukraine had previously objected to Russia sending any aid into the region, and the West had strongly warned Russia that any attempt to send its military personnel into Ukraine under the guise of humanitarian assistance would be seen as an invasion.
In the past week, Ukrainian government forces have been closing in on the few remaining pro-Russian rebel strongholds in eastern Ukraine, including surrounding Donetsk, the largest city in rebel-held city. Hundreds of thousands have been fleeing the fighting.
Shortly after the Kremlin statement, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko got on a phone call with President Barack Obama, according to their offices.
RUSSIA: MOSCOW HAS 45,000 TROOPS ON BORDER, KIEV SAYS
Russia has massed 45,000 troops on its border with Ukraine backed by an array of heavy equipment including tanks, missile systems, warplanes and attack helicopters, Ukrainian military spokesman Andriy Lysenko said on Monday.
“As of 11 o’clock today, about 45,000 troops of the armed forces and internal forces of the Russian Federation are concentrated in border areas,” Lysenko told a briefing. He said they were supported by 160 tanks, 1,360 armoured vehicles, 390 artillery systems, up to 150 Grad missile launchers, 192 fighter aircraft and 137 attack helicopters.
European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso also warned Putin against any military intervention in the country.
Ukraine and the West have accused Russia of supplying heavy weapons and other equipment to the rebels in eastern Ukraine, a charge that Russia denies.
DONETSK: ROCKET ATTACK FREES 'EXTREMELY DANGEROUS PRISONERS'
Rockets slammed into a high-security prison Monday in the rebel-held city of Donetsk, igniting a riot that allowed more than 100 prisoners to flee, authorities in eastern Ukraine said.
Donetsk city council spokesman Maxim Rovinsky said a direct rocket hit killed at least one inmate and left three others severely wounded. In the chaos, he said 106 prisoners escaped, included some jailed for murder, robbery and rape.
The prison break became possible after a substation providing the building with electricity was damaged, disabling the facility’s alarm system. “Extremely dangerous prisoners are now free. It is hard to know the extent of threat this poses to the city, which is flooded with weapons,” Rovinsky said.
Rovinsky said Monday at least 10 homes, shops and garages were hit by overnight rockets. He added that 20,000 people had no electricity in Donetsk and an estimated 400,000 have fled the city, which had a pre-war population of one million. Many shops have closed and supplies are dwindling at the few still open.
The Ukrainians army’s strategy has focused on encircling Donetsk and nearby rebel towns and breaking off road links with other separatist towns and villages further east, closer to the Russian border.
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