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Foreign minister flies to Ukraine amid Russian troop build up fears

PR dla Zagranicy
Peter Gentle 15.07.2014 09:00
Poland's foreign minister Radoslaw Sikorski is flying to Kiev for a meeting with his Ukrainian counterpart, as NATO says Russia has increased troop numbers along its border with Ukraine.

A woman holds a placard showing Russian President Vladimir Putin during a rally outside the residence of the French ambassador in Kiev over the possible sale of two Mistral helicopter carriers to Russia by France, in Kiev, Ukraine, 14 July 2014. According to media reports, France, which signed a deal with Russia in 2011 on the sale of the ships, has been urged to sell the warships to NATO instead, in light of the ongoing crisis gripping Ukraine: photo - EPA/ROMAN PILIPEY

Minister Sikorski will meet with Ukrainian foreign minister Pavlo Klimkin to discuss the escalating violence in eastern Ukraine and possible help from the European Union.

On Monday night, Prime Minister Donald tusk spoke with Petro Poroshenko, elected as president in May, ahead of a meeting of the European Council in Brussels, where EU leaders will discuss possible further sanctions against Russia for its support for separatist rebels.

Pro-Russian separatists claimed responsibility on Monday for the downing of an AN-26 Ukrainian military plane over the eastern city of Luhansk, though Ukraine defence minister Valery Heletey said the aircraft had been flying too high for rebels' shoulder-mounted rockets to reach it and claimed that Russia may have been responsible.

All crew parachuted free of the falling aircraft and there were no casualties, the defence minister said.

“The plane was downed by another, more powerful missile weapon that probably was used from the territory of the Russian Federation,” Heletey told President Poroshenko, according to a statement on the president’s web site.

A NATO official has said Russia has built up10,000 to 12,000 troops near the Ukrainian border, after their number dropped to fewer than 1,000 in mid-June.

“Since that time, the Russians have been building up their forces again,” the unnamed official told the Washington Post.

“Instead of withdrawing, Russia has stepped up its support for the separatists,” Minister Sikorski said on Monday.

Russia has denied a troop build up and invited observers from the OSCE to come to two border posts to monitor the situation. (pg)

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