West warns Russia over Ukraine
Artillery pounded the rebel bastion of Donetsk in southeastern Ukraine yesterday as the West warned Russia that any attempt to send "humanitarian" troops into the conflict-torn region would be "unacceptable".
In a round of telephone calls late Saturday, US President Barack Obama, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister David Cameron agreed that any unilateral move by Russia into Ukrainian territory would be seen as "illegal" and "unacceptable".
Russia on Saturday denied an allegation by Kiev that it had tried to send in a convoy disguised as an aid mission.
Shelling meanwhile continued through the night in Donetsk, a city of one million that rebels now say has been surrounded by Ukrainian forces.
There were no reports of casualties however.
Western leaders reacted strongly after Ukraine said it had scuppered a Russian "humanitarian convoy with 'peacekeepers'" moving towards the border, accompanied by troops and military hardware.
"Any Russian intervention in Ukraine... without the formal, express consent and authorisation of the government of Ukraine is unacceptable," Obama and Merkel agreed in a phone call late Saturday.
Such a move "violates international law, and will provoke additional consequences," on top of the many economic sanctions already in place against Moscow, the White House added.
In a separate conversation, Obama and Cameron said that a Russian move into Ukraine would be "unjustified and illegal".
The West has warned for days that Moscow, whom it accuses of backing the separatists, could use the looming humanitarian crisis in eastern Ukraine as a pretext to send in troops. More than 285,000 people have fled their homes in eastern Ukraine, according to the UN refugee agency UNHCR.
Nato says Russia has some 20,000 troops on the border with its former Soviet neighbour.
Fighting between government troops and insurgents has also left some 1,300 people dead and more than 4,000 injured in four months of what the Red Cross has already deemed a civil war in the industrial region.