A Russian military helicopter flies over the trucks of Russian humanitarian convoy near Russian-Ukrainian border yesterday. Photo: AFP
Ukraine yesterday said it had destroyed part of a Russian military convoy that crossed onto its territory in an incursion that has sent cross-border tensions rocketing.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko told British Prime Minister David Cameron that government artillery had destroyed a "considerable part" of a small military convoy that entered the country, the presidency said in a statement.
The two countries have also been wrangling for days over a Russian convoy that Moscow says is carrying aid for besieged rebel-held cities but which Kiev suspects could be a "Trojan horse" to provide military help to the insurgents.
Fears that the border clash could spill into all-out war between Kiev and Moscow sent major share markets tumbling across Europe and the United States.
The European Union demanded that Russia "put an immediate stop to any form of border hostilities, in particular to the flow of arms, military advisers and armed personnel into the conflict region, and to withdraw its forces from the border." And Britain yesterday summoned Moscow's ambassador to "clarify" the situation.
Moscow's defence ministry dismissed the alleged convoy as a "phantom", its latest denial of Western accusations that it is funnelling weapons to the pro-Russia separatists who launched an insurgency against Kiev in April.
But Nato chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen backed reports of the "Russian incursion" after British media said it had seen the convoy of some 20 vehicles cross the border.
He accused Russia of active involvement in the "destabilisation" of eastern Ukraine, where pro-Kremlin separatists have been fighting against Kiev for four months.
Meanwhile, Russia's foreign ministry ominously accused Ukraine of "attempts to derail the supply of humanitarian aid" as doubts swirled over what will happen next to almost 300 Russian trucks parked up some 30 kilometres from Ukraine's border. Moscow accused Kiev of stepping up military operations with the "obvious goal" of blocking the agreed route.
It had appeared earlier that the two countries might reach a deal to allow the convoy into Ukraine to help people in the east who are without water, food or power.
Ukraine fears the convoy could be used as a pretext to invade, as a pro-Moscow rebellion shows signs of unravelling after four months of fighting that has left more than 2,000 people dead including children and sent around 285,000 fleeing their homes.
Meanwhile Ukraine said it has sent rebel forces reeling, after retaking three small towns overnight in the restive east. Rebel sources described the situation in rebel-held areas as "critical" and demanded that Russian aid be let in.
With the offensive intensifying, the death toll continues to climb, with mortar fire in Donetsk killing 11 civilians over the past 24 hours, local authorities said. Five soldiers were also killed in fighting over the same period.