The leaders of Russia and Ukraine held key talks yesterday on the brutal conflict between Kiev and pro-Moscow rebels after the Kremlin admitted for the first time its troops had entered Ukrainian territory.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko shook hands with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, but there were few hopes of a breakthrough to defuse fighting some fear could trigger all-out war between Kiev and its former Soviet master Moscow.
Fears the conflict could intensify mounted when Ukraine on Monday released footage purporting to show 10 Russian soldiers it had captured on its territory.
A Moscow military source claimed the soldiers had crossed into Ukraine "by accident".
"In Minsk at this meeting the fate of the world and Europe is being decided," Poroshenko said in Russian as the roundtable with Putin kicked off alongside top EU officials and the leaders of Kazakhstan and Belarus.
Putin, however, barely mentioned the brutal fighting that has killed some 2,200 people in the east of Ukraine in his opening remarks, focusing instead on the damage Kiev's recent agreement with the EU could have on Russia's economy.
On the ground, battled raged in east Ukraine, with local authorities in the main rebel bastion of Donetsk said three civilians were killed in shelling overnight as the army pummels insurgent fighters.
Pressure soared after Kiev's security service yesterday said that paratroopers from Russia's 98th airborne division had been captured by Ukrainian forces about 50 kilometres southeast of the main rebel stronghold of Donetsk.
Ukrainian media on Tuesday aired footage purporting to show captured Russian soldiers telling an interrogator that they crossed into Ukraine in armoured convoys.
Kiev has long accused Moscow of stoking the separatist insurgency raging in its east -- charges the Kremlin has repeatedly denied.
Kiev also accused Russian army helicopters of launching a ferocious missile attack on a Ukrainian border position further to the north, killing four border guards and bringing the death toll to 12 soldiers in the past 24 hours.
As Ukraine's political transition continues, Poroshenko on Monday announced long-awaited early parliamentary elections for October 26.
The Kremlin also ratcheted up the pressure by announcing plans to send another aid convoy into eastern Ukraine "this week".