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UN Security Council Discuss Ukraine Crisis As Russia Blamed

UN officials warned of a worsening humanitarian situation in eastern Ukraine as some UN Security Council members blamed Russia for the crisis.

John Ging, the director of UN humanitarian operations, said at the council's August 5 emergency meeting on the Ukrainian situation that fighting between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian separatists is putting civilians at risk, especially in urban areas.

He said power and water supplies are becoming scarce because of the fighting and that more than 1,350 people -- civilians and combatants -- have been killed.

The UN refugee agency said earlier on August 5 that some 285,000 people have fled their homes to escape the fighting, an estimate they said was probably low.

Russian officials say several hundreds of thousands of people have fled to Russia during the crisis.

Russian UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said the situation in the cities of Luhansk and Donetsk is "disastrous" and said Russia wants to send a humanitarian convoy to the cities to help the civilian population.

But Security Council members Britain and the United States joined Ukraine in blaming Moscow's financial and material support for the separatists as the main reason for the crisis.

Rosemary DiCarlo, the deputy U.S. ambassador to the UN, told the council that the best way to improve the humanitarian situation was "for Russia to stop the flow of fighters, weapons, and money from Russia into eastern Ukraine."

Ukraine's deputy ambassador to the UN, Oleksandr Pavlichenko, denied there is a humanitarian crisis in Ukraine but said the situation in Luhansk and Donetsk -- the two main cities of the separatists -- is serious.

He said the Kyiv government is capable of managing the humanitarian situation but is "open to cooperation with international partners."

Meanwhile, heavy fighting was reported overnight inside Donetsk. Ukrainian forces have effectively encircled the city, which is the headquarters for the rebels' self-proclaimed "Donetsk People's Republic."

The separatists control less than 10 percent of the territory that makes up Ukraine's Donetsk Province, having lost large swaths of land to Ukrainian forces in the last six weeks.

U.S. and Ukrainian officials said they are concerned by a Russian force buildup near the Ukrainian border of some 20,000 troops.

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said the forces are "highly capable" and are "relatively close to the border."

Despite the fighting, 110 experts from Malaysia, the Netherlands, and Australia are continuing their search for remains from victims of the Malaysian airliner that was downed near Donetsk on July 17, killing all 298 passengers onboard.

The investigators are also recovering personal belongings and flight wreckage in an effort to determine what caused the airliner to be brought down.

Western and Ukrainian officials have said the separatists shot it down with a missile, likely mistaking it for a Ukrainian military plane.

Separatist officials deny having anything to do with the plane's downing.

With reporting by AP, dpa, Reuters

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