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Thursday 18th September 2014
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Ukraine Troops Battle Rebel Armoured Convoy

Monday, 25th August 2014 11:11

Ukraine says its forces have clashed with a rebel armoured column it claims crossed the border from Russia.

The military said border guards were engaged in a battle with around 50 vehicles, including tanks, near the southeastern town of Novoazovsk, as it headed toward the port city of Mariupol.

The latest violence came as Moscow announced plans to send a second controversial aid convoy to rebel-held eastern Ukraine in a move which threatens to further escalate the bloody conflict.

An earlier column of more than 200 trucks sent across the border by Moscow, with a cargo of what was said to be aid, without permission was branded by the government in Kiev as a "direct invasion", and was heavily criticised by the West.

There are concerns the aid convoy is a move to assist the insurgency or be used as a pretext to invade, but Russia insists it is to help the stricken region.

The continuing unrest comes on the eve of crucial talks between the Russian and Ukrainian presidents on Tuesday in a bid to find a diplomatic solution to defuse tensions, and end the deadly crisis.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the aim was to "help Ukrainians agree among themselves".

But at the same time he ramped up tensions with plans to send a second aid convoy to eastern Ukraine.

Mr Lavrov said: "The humanitarian situation is not improving but deteriorating."

Kiev is also likely to have been antagonised by Mr Lavrov's comments that there was nothing demeaning about parading Ukrainian prisoners through the rebel-held city of Donetsk.

There was condemnation after pro-Russian separatists displayed captives before baying crowds in mockery of the country's Independence Day celebrations in Kiev.

The captives were followed by rubbish trucks to "clean" where they had walked.

Germany has said it was quite likely a war crime.

A foreign ministry spokesman said: "It is completely distasteful and it's just not done."

But Mr Lavrov said: "I saw images of that parade and I didn't see anything close to what could be considered as humiliating."