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Kyiv Ready To Let Aid Mission In Luhansk

Children hold a flag of the self-styled "People's Republic of Luhansk" during a rally in the eastern Ukrainian city of Luhansk in June.

President Petro Poroshenko says Ukraine is ready to accept a humanitarian mission to the separatist-controlled city of Luhansk, but only if it is an unarmed international team entering the country through Kiev-controlled border checkpoints.

Poroshenko’s office said on August 9 that the president made the comments in a phone conversation with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Poroshenko said he was in discussions with Red Cross President Peter Maurer over such a possible mission.

Kyiv earlier said it prevented a Russian attempt to send troops across the border under the guise of a humanitarian mission.

Valeriy Chaliy, deputy head of President Petro Poroshenko's office said late on August 8, "A huge convoy moved towards the Ukrainian border, accompanied by Russian troops and military hardware."

He said that the action "was meant to enter apparently in order to provoke a full-scale conflict."

Chaliy said the move was averted through diplomatic channels, without going into details.

He added that the Red Cross denied that Russia had coordinated this alleged humanitarian column with them.

Chaliy said Ukraine's Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin spoke to his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, who assured him that the Russian attempts at the border "will be stopped."

Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov denied the allegations, saying "We have difficulty understanding what the Ukrainians are talking about."

Peskov insisted that Russian troops “made no attempt” to enter Ukraine.

The West has long warned that Russia's build-up of troops on the border with eastern Ukraine, where government troops are battling pro-Russian separatists, could see Moscow invade its troubled neighbor.

U.S. President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron discussed the crisis on August 9 and said tougher sanctions should be imposed on Russia if it sends troops into Ukraine, according to a statement from Cameron's office.

The White House said that during a call, Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel agreed that any Russian intervention in Ukraine would “provoke additional consequences."

Russia's Foreign Ministry said that Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov spoke with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to seek U.S. support for a humanitarian mission in southeastern Ukraine.

Lavrov said such a mission is needed because of large civilian casualties in the area he blamed on "the escalation by Kyiv of its army operation."

Also August 9, pro-Russian separatists in Donetsk said they were ready for a cease-fire with the Ukrainian government to prevent a "humanitarian catastrophe."

Aleksandr Zakharchenko, the prime minister of the self-proclaimed Donetsk people's republic, said the area is surrounded by Ukrainian government forces.

In a statement, he warned that the city of Donetsk faced a lack of food, water, and electricity, adding that the rebels were ready to defend it.

Meanwhile, Donetsk city council spokesman Maxim Rovinsky said some 2,000 residential buildings were now without electricity.

With reporting by AFP, AP, Reuters, and ITAR-TASS
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