News / Europe

US: No Confirmation on Reports Russian Military Entered Ukraine

Russian military vehicles maneuver on a road 9 miles from the Ukrainian border in the Rostov-on-Don region, Russia, Aug. 15, 2014. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin)
Russian military vehicles maneuver on a road 9 miles from the Ukrainian border in the Rostov-on-Don region, Russia, Aug. 15, 2014. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin)

The White House says it cannot confirm reports that Ukrainian troops destroyed a Russian military convoy that had allegedly crossed into eastern Ukraine.

Spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said late Friday officials are working to gather information on the situation. She said the U.S. remains concerned about repeated Russian and Russian-supported incursions into Ukraine.

Earlier Friday, Ukraine’s president said government troops destroyed a column of military vehicles that crossed into eastern Ukraine from Russia as a convoy of Russian trucks purportedly carrying humanitarian aid remained stalled near the border awaiting inspection.

The incident, which NATO confirmed and said involved Russian weaponry, was vehemently denied by Russia’s Defense Ministry, which told news agencies the report was “some kind of fantasy.”

A top separatist official in Donetsk also dismissed the assertion, saying it was in fact separatist fighters that had ambushed a Ukrainian military column.

Tensions between Russia and Ukraine have neared boiling point in recent days, as the convoy of more than 250 trucks journeyed south from the Moscow region to the two countries’ border.

The Kremlin has insisted the trucks are carrying food and supplies for residents in the besieged Ukrainian city of Luhansk and other locations. Kyiv and Western officials, however, fear they could be used as a pretext for a full-scale Russian invasion.

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen speaks during an interview with Reuters at alliance headquarters in Brussels August 11, 2014.NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen speaks during an interview with Reuters at alliance headquarters in Brussels August 11, 2014.
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen speaks during an interview with Reuters at alliance headquarters in Brussels August 11, 2014.
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen speaks during an interview with Reuters at alliance headquarters in Brussels August 11, 2014.

Now in its fifth month, the Russian-backed insurgency has sent relations between Moscow and the West to Cold War levels, and prompted major Western sanctions in an effort to persuade President Vladimir Putin to scale back his support for rebels.

A statement on President Petro Poroshenko’s official Web site said Ukrainian troops had destroyed a significant portion of the military column, which reportedly involved Russian armored personnel carriers and other vehicles.

The statement also said the military vehicles were crossing into Ukraine, about 20 miles from where the Russian aid convoy was stopped. It was unclear if the column was officially part of the Russian armed forces, or operated by Russian-backed rebels. Several Western media outlets reported the crossing early Friday.

According to a statement posted on the the president's website, Poroshenko told British Prime Minister David Cameron about the development during a telephone call.

European Union ministers on Friday urged Russia to put an "immediate stop" to all forms of hostilities near the Ukrainian border.

At a news conference later Friday, NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen called it "a Russian incursion.”

"It is a clear demonstration of continued Russian involvement in the destabilization of eastern Ukraine,” Rasmussen said, speaking in Copenhagen.

Russia's Defense Ministry, however, said no such military force had crossed the border.

"There was no Russian military column that crossed the Russian-Ukrainian border either at night or during the day,” state news agency RIA Novosti quoted the ministry as saying.

Alexander Zakharchenko, the self-proclaimed prime minister for the Donetsk People’s Republic, told VOA that the vehicles that were attacked were in fact Ukrainian and were attacked by rebel fighters, who seized weaponry and other equipment.

In a statement Friday, European Union foreign ministers said any unilateral military action by Russia would be considered “a blatant violation of international law.”

Russia should "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,” the ministers meeting in Brussels said.

The United Nations said it could not verify the reports of the column being destroyed. "Such reports point to the urgent need for immediate de-escalation and a resolution of the conflict through dialogue," spokesman Farhan Haq said.

Concerns about convoy

Earlier Friday, there were conflicting reports whether Ukrainian customs and borders had started inspecting the humanitarian convoy.

Ukraine’s border service said the inspection had begun, but a top security official, Andriy Lysenko, later denied that, saying authorities hadn’t yet received a detailed listing of the trucks’ contents.

The International Committee of the Red Cross, which Russia said would participate in the aid distribution, also suggested that no inspections had begun as of late Friday afternoon local time.

Swift action was needed to allow “confirmation of the strictly humanitarian nature of the cargo,” the Geneva-based organization said.

Much of eastern Ukraine lacks medical supplies, water and electricity, as Ukrainian forces have pressed their offensive . Russia, which has denied directly arming the rebels, has said the convoy was aimed at alleviating suffering in the city of Luhansk and other parts of eastern Ukraine.

Click to enlargeClick to enlarge
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

Meanwhile, two of the most senior pro-Russian separatists battling Ukraine forces near the Russian border quit Thursday, as Ukrainian troops pummeled locations near the rebel-held cities of Luhansk and Donetsk.

Artillery shells struck the center of Donetsk for the first time since rebels launched their rebellion against Ukrainian rule in April. Western news reports say at least 25 people were killed in the Donetsk shelling, while Ukraine reported nine troops killed.

The departures of Igor Strelkov and Valery Bolotov came as Russian President Vladimir Putin met with lawmakers in Crimea, the Black Sea peninsula that Russia seized from Ukraine and annexed earlier this year.

The departure of Strelkov and Borodai had prompted speculation that recent battlefield losses had forced the rebels’ Russian backers to push for leadership changes. Zakharchenko, however, denied reports that the insurgents’ leadership was in disarray. 

In an interview with VOA Friday, Zakharchenko said Strelkov was on vacation before taking up a more regional post overseeing insurgency activities in both Donetsk and Luhansk.

Obama To Visit Baltics

Russia's actions in Crimea and along the Ukrainian border have deeply worried countries like Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, former Soviet states that are all now members of NATO. The three Baltic nations, along with other countries like Poland, have called for a greater NATO military presence in eastern regions, to deter Moscow from repeating tactics it has used in Ukraine.

On Friday, the White House announced President Obama would be traveling to Estonia next month to meet with the Baltic leaders about Ukraine. The statement made specific mention of the central clause to the alliance, Article V, which says that an attack on one member is considered an attack on all members.

“In light of recent developments in Ukraine, the United States has taken steps to reassure allies in Central and Eastern Europe, and this trip is a chance to reaffirm our ironclad commitment to Article V as the foundation of NATO,” the statement said.

  • President Vladimir Putin (left) listens to Sberbank President German Gref (right) in Yalta , Crimea, Aug. 14, 2014.
  • President Vladimir Putin addresses members of Crimea's parliament. While in a meeting with lawmakers, he commented that his country was doing, "all we can to stop bloodshed in Ukraine as soon as possible," about 30 km from Yalta, Crimea. Aug. 14, 2014.
  • A local man stands next to a shell crater with his destroyed house in the background, in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine,  Aug. 14, 2014.
  • Local resident Valentina Smirnova reacts as she stands in her home destroyed by shell attacks, in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine, Aug. 14, 2014.
  • Local resident Svetlana Avdyukhin displays large fragments of a shell, in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine, Aug. 14, 2014.
  • A convoy of white trucks with humanitarian aid parked in a field about 28 kilometers from the Ukrainian border in Rostov-on-Don region, Russia, Aug. 14, 2014.

VOA's Margaret Besheer contributed to this report from the United Nations. Some information was provided by AFP, the Associated Press and Reuters.



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Comment Sorting
Comments page of 3
by: Tom from: Minnesota
August 17, 2014 9:00 PM
This entire problem in Ukraine can be resolved by the Russian Federation not getting involved with the conflict in Ukraine and if Russian citizens of Ukraine are unhappy with the Ukraine government... then influence a change in policies or leave the country. If civil war starts... no other country should get involved. I have not seen any pictures of Ukraine invading Russia only the opposite... so it certainly seems that Russia is the culprit here.

by: Jacob from: Millies
August 17, 2014 1:51 PM
With The Help Of The Chinese, Germany, France, Or Just Russia and China Can Destroy and Crush The United States Of America. Americans are too busy fighting themselves and had become cowards to fight back!!!!!!

by: Rojm
August 16, 2014 3:09 PM
There is so much happening this summer. Can the news media try to lay off ramping up this conflict. News media try to do so good. How about telling the world to give food and water to the civilians caught in the conflict? Are the west and the Ukraine like IS in that they want civilians dead. They are bit modern and do not say it out loud. Somebody has to give food and water to the civilians.

by: Anonymous
August 16, 2014 7:14 AM
USA is the main cause of conflicts throughout the world.
In Response

by: Will from: London
August 16, 2014 7:28 PM
Maybe you can expand on your comment about USA is the main cause of conflict throughout the world. What is your rationale and where are you from? Would be nice to have some context? Are you aware of the Frontline club? This is a good source for accurate news globally.
In Response

by: chompers from: petaluma
August 16, 2014 2:24 PM
Hey John LeGualt, where did you read the word all in the post from Anonymous? Perhaps you should become 'informed' with english. good luck.
In Response

by: John LeGault from: North Carolina
August 16, 2014 10:36 AM
Cause of some conflicts, not all. You're generalization makes you appear greatly uninformed

by: Will from: London
August 16, 2014 3:00 AM
I was in Kharkiv the day Ukraine's old president fled. The people were happy. Ukraine has a legitimate president and government voted in by the population. Ukraine is an independent country and Russia has no right over them or their land. Putin and Russia has no rights in Ukraine so stop behaving like terrorists. Shooting down an airliner constitutes a war crime in my eyes. Remember Putin is ex KGB. An ex spy, probably with blood on his hands. Need I say more. I an not Ukrainian. I am Chinese to put my comments into context.
In Response

by: Will from: London
August 18, 2014 4:36 PM
If Russia claims no right to Ukraine then why are they still in Crimea? Duh!
In Response

by: Will from: London
August 18, 2014 4:35 PM
Well, it would seem that some people are calling me a liar. I have no reason to lie, I am not American nor Ukrainian, but I was there and I can see for myself 1st hand, unlike others. Propaganda is for those who are not able to see for themselves. Not going to respond to these comments anymore as some of you should go to Ukraine and see for yourself.... After that, you can comment!
In Response

by: TrueBlue from: Australia
August 18, 2014 12:06 AM
You better go and read some information about terrorism! And the first thing - make it clear for yourself who you call terrorists in Ukraine. Don't follow up Obama's propaganda and try to have your own independent opinion, otherwise you look as stupid and silly as a monkey.
In Response

by: Putin the Great from: Russia
August 17, 2014 2:55 AM
Your accusations are unsubstantiated. First, Russia claims no right over Ukraine. The airliner was shot down by ukrainian army. There are no proofs of Putin or Russia involvement in the plane crash. The black boxes were not decephered yet. You have never been in Kharkiv and you are a propagandist.
In Response

by: Will from: London
August 16, 2014 7:22 PM
Anonymous, I never said Russia shot down the Malaysian airline and my head is not in my ass (how rude!). I was implying the supply of arms to terrorists that shot down a civilian plane. I agree propaganda is everywhere but again you make an assumption that I follow only US news. I do not live in the US and I watch news from Ukraine and Russia as well as the UK and from other parts of Europe. I am also in contact with people in Eastern Ukraine almost everyday so I think I am a bit more informed then yourself. Why don't you watch the Russian documentaries on Putin. That might give you some context! Oh, does Russia still occupy Crimea? Yes other countries in the world may just be as bad, but this article is about Ukraine, so I will make not comment on the rights and wrongs. I would be here all night :)
In Response

by: Anonymous
August 16, 2014 5:12 PM
Will, before making those absorbs comments buddy, get your head out of the ass and get ur information right. There is no proof that russia shut down that plane, the stuff that US has released are most likely photoshopped as they were released on twitter any creditable information wouldn't be released on twitter.... The west and it's propaganda machine are just as bad as Russian propaganda machine.

by: Steve from: Germany
August 16, 2014 1:32 AM
It's a pleasure for me to suffer dropping in my economy due to sanctions. If we stop impose severe sanctions on Russia,we will have WW3. Cut off Russia's gas to EU!!!!

by: Igor from: Russia
August 15, 2014 11:18 PM
NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen must have given out clear evidences rather than calling it "a Russian incursion.” Mr. Rasmussen should no longer barking arbitrarily like a mad dog after hearing rumours from Kiev and some irresponsible reporters. I am considering if he is receiving wages fromn Kiev or the Guardian.

by: Mike from: TX
August 15, 2014 5:00 PM
A lot of photos have been pouring from Ukraine. Photos of trucks & troops, of gun battles & crashed airplanes. Why no photos of destroyed Russian armored cars on Ukrainian road?
In Response

by: Popsiq from: Buganda
August 16, 2014 9:54 AM
A Ukrainian column was 'messed up' at the same time Porkoshenko was claiming a Russian column was destroyed. This near the town of Stepanovsk.

Other photos appear to show Ukrainian units 'enjoying' the campaign.

NO photos of destroyed 'Russian' equipment.

by: VL from: USA
August 15, 2014 4:58 PM
Putin is going to have a lot to regret before this is over. And it looks like waking up Ukraine is going to be one of his regrets. Odd how power hungry people are so often paranoid. He feared the encroachment of NATO and through his actions, he has strengthened NATO's presence. Foolish man.
In Response

by: Mark1956 from: Victoria
August 15, 2014 9:53 PM
Oh, my, yes - Putin has awakened a sleeping giant. A fat oligarch president trying to divide his attention between murdering his own citizens (which usually brings a scream of indignation from the United States, but apparently not this time) and running his candy company, of which he remains president also, and a bumbling army which has taken thousands of casualties compared to hundreds on the other side even though it is firing directly into residential areas. I have plenty of substantiation, so please challenge me.

Strengthened NATO's presence where? Ukraine is not a NATO country. Not even the EU is likely to want it very badly now, since it is bankrupt and its major eastern cities are in ruins. Yes, great job, Putin, strengthening NATO.

by: rj from: india
August 15, 2014 4:35 PM
The American should first think about their doing. You are not the police of the world. See what you have done to Iraq, Syria.
In Response

by: Linda Knox
August 17, 2014 12:41 PM
Why not focus in this forum on Ukraine and what Putin is doing to innocent Ukrainians?
In Response

by: DellStator from: US
August 16, 2014 12:18 PM
In Iraq a gov't run by terror, who tortured his own soccer team for losing - Google it, who used WMD to wipe out entire unarmed villages, who spent millions to convince the world he was trying to build a nuclear bomb (it worked, we believed him), was removed. It was up to the various ethnic and religious groups in Iraq to then decide if they wanted to live as a peaceful democracy, or see who could grab power next. They so far have choosen the latter, and were rewarded with a fundalmentalist invasion. Perhaps they will learn now, perhaps not, it is up to them.
Syria - as there is no UN or world consensus, we have done nothing but protest the gov't's treatment of it's own people, and provide humanitarian aid (delivered outside the country).
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