Ukraine says more Russian soldiers have crossed the border into the country.
The Ukrainian military says five Russian armored infantry carriers and a truck entered the small town of Amvrosiyivka in eastern Ukraine.
The news follows the Kremlin’s acknowledging Russian soldiers were detained Monday in Ukrainian territory, but saying they crossed the border by accident.
Meanwhile, NATO says it is stepping up exercises in Eastern Europe. Alliance chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen says he expects next week NATO members will approve sending temporary forces into the region.
Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk said Tuesday the former Soviet republic needed “practical help” from the NATO alliance.
Kyiv has repeatedly accused Moscow of arming and otherwise supporting the rebellion in Ukraine’s Russian-speaking east. Moscow continues to deny involvement.
Early Wednesday, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said he and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed on the principles of a peace plan to end the fighting.
President Poroshenko spoke following two hours of face-to-face talks with Putin at a summit in Belarus also attended by regional leaders.
“I can say that the logic of this peace plan was finally supported by by all of the heads of state, without exclusion,” he said. “We insisted that, first of all, it is necessary to reach an agreement to ensure the freedom of Ukrainian citizens illegally detained by armed groups. We achieved an agreement to organize a tripartite contact group immediately and the process of the release of captured hostages will be demonstrated very soon.”
But it remains unclear what immediate impact the peace plan would have on ongoing fighting.
Following the talks, President Putin said Moscow will “do everything” to support the plan. But he also said it would be up to the Kyiv government to negotiate cease-fire terms with rebels.
“We in Russia cannot talk about any conditions for the cease-fire, about any agreements between Kyiv, Donetsk, Luhansk – this is not our business. This is Ukraine’s business. We can only help to create an atmosphere of trust for this important and necessary process,” he said.
Separately, Poroshenko said a road map for cease-fire talks will be prepared as soon as possible.
The multi-party talks in Minsk included EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and the leaders of Kazakhstan and Belarus.
Pro-Russian separatists seeking autonomy in Ukraine’s Russian-speaking east launched a rebellion against Kyiv’s rule in April. Authorities say more than 2,000 people have been killed in the fighting.
(Photo, of Ukrainian military recruits being trained: Ukraine defence ministry)