A top Ukrainian official said Monday Russian tanks and armoured vehicles have crossed into south-eastern Ukraine.
A spokesman for Ukraine’s National Security Council, Andriy Lysenko, said the column of 10 tanks, two armored vehicles and two trucks crossed the border near Shcherbak. He said the Russian military vehicles were bearing flags of separatist Donetsk rebels.
Lysenko said the convoy could be trying to open a front to the south of areas where most fighting has occurred. He said the convoy could be headed to an area near Mariupol, which he said has enough defenders to repel any attack.
When asked about the convoy, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said he had not heard about it, and added “there is plenty of misinformation” about incursions.
Earlier Monday, Ukrainian officials said they had battled with a convoy of separatist vehicles near a town on the Azov Sea.
Another humanitarian convoy
Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Monday that Moscow wants to send another humanitarian aid convoy to eastern Ukraine. Lavrov said Russia sent an official note to Kyiv Sunday with information about the new aid convoy, including information about the type of aid that will be delivered.
Russia has faced extreme criticism from Kyiv and the West for its recent aid convoy to the rebel-held Ukrainian city of Luhansk. The convoy was conducted without official approval from Kyiv. Russia also did not wait for the International Committee of the Red Cross to complete its inspection procedures.
Lavrov said Russia wants to send the second convoy as soon as possible. He said Russia wants to reach an agreement on “all conditions” for delivering the new round of aid on the same route as the first.
Mariupol is in Ukraine’s separatist Donetsk region. But most fighting between separatist rebels and Ukrainian troops has been around the city of Donetsk, the rebels’ largest stronghold. Ukraine has accused Moscow of carrying out regular cross-border shelling of government positions to shore up the rebels who have been increasingly hemmed in by Kyiv’s forces.
Last week, Russia’s unilateral dispatch of more than 200 trucks carrying supposed aid into Ukraine was denounced by the Ukrainian government as an invasion and condemned by the United States, the European Union and NATO.
The latest developments come ahead of talks planned for Tuesday in Minsk between Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and Russia’s Vladimir Putin.