The United Nations Security Council has met in emergency session on Ukraine’s crisis for the 26th time, again without taking action, as UN officials warned of possible “full-scale fighting" in eastern Ukraine.
The November 12 Security Council meeting came hours after a senior NATO commander said the alliance has confirmed that “multiple columns” of Russian tanks, artillery, and antiaircraft units had crossed from Russia into separatist-controlled territory in eastern Ukraine since November 10.
UN Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs Jens Anders Toyberg-Frandzen told the Security Council on November 12 that the UN is “deeply concerned over the possibility of a return to full-scale fighting” in eastern Ukraine.
He said Ukraine also could face a months-long simmering conflict that would be catastrophic, or the situation in eastern Ukraine could become a “frozen” conflict that lingers for years or even decades.
Moscow denies the allegations from NATO’s top commander in Europe, U.S. General Philip Breedlove, that Russian armored columns have been crossing into eastern Ukraine to bolster pro-Russian separatist fighters there.
Russia says there is no evidence its armed forces are in eastern Ukraine.
Russia’s representative told the UN Security Council that the storm of international criticism the Kremlin now faces is “yet another foray into propaganda with new flourishes.”
The emergency Security Council session was called by Washington.
But there was no proposed UN resolution against Russia, which has Security Council veto powers.
U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power told the Security Council that Russia “talks of peace, but it keeps fueling war” in eastern Ukraine.
Meanwhile, international monitors confirm seeing unmarked military forces bolstering pro-Russian separatist positions in eastern Ukraine since November 8 in a clear violation of a September 5 cease-fire deal that was brokered by Russia.
OSCE Secretary-General Lamberto Zannier said in Brussels on November 12 that video from OSCE monitor drones shows "nondescript militias wearing no identification [fighting] on the side of the rebels" and firing antiaircraft weapons at the OSCE drones.
He said the OSCE drones, meant to monitor the cease-fire deal, also are being subjected to "high-end military-grade jamming” from an unknown location.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said in Berlin on November 12 that there are signs the Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine are preparing for major military clashes against Ukrainian government troops.
Steinmeier said the massing of troops “helps nobody, and we're losing time -- time we urgently need for the political and especially the economic stabilization of Ukraine."
In Donetsk, an AFP correspondent reported on November 12 that heavy shelling was being fired from separatist-held positions near the city center toward government-held positions around Donetsk’s international airport.
Earlier on November 12, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry spoke with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov by telephone about the Ukraine crisis.
Moscow said in a statement that Lavrov stressed the need for "direct dialogue between Kyiv and Donetsk and Luhansk” about elections conducted by separatists in territory they control.
The wording reflected Russian support for elections held on November 2 that have been rejected by Kyiv, the United States, and the European Union as illegal and illegitimate.
With reporting by Reuters, AP, AFP, TASS and Interfax