- Foreign ministers of Russia, Ukraine, Germany and France due to meet in Berlin
- Ten civilians killed in Donetsk shelling
Pro-Russia rebels shot down a Ukrainian fighter jet on Sunday, before Kiev and Moscow’s top diplomats were due to hold talks to defuse tensions over fighting in the east of the former Soviet nation.
Ukraine’s military said its MiG-29 warplane had been shot down as it carried out “an assignment to eliminate a large group of terrorists” in the Luhansk region. The pilot managed to parachute to safety, it said.
Authorities in the main rebel city of Donetsk said shelling had killed 10 civilians in 24 hours as government forces pressed on with an offensive to oust separatists.
Meanwhile, Germany demanded that Moscow clarify boasts by a rebel leader in the besieged city that he had recently received hundreds of fighters trained in Russia to bolster the flagging rebellion.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Ukrainian FM Pavlo Klimkin, and their French and German counterparts are due to meet in Berlin.
Klimkin tweeted, “Flying to Berlin. The talks will not be easy. It is important to stop the flow of weapons and mercenaries from Russia.”
French President François Hollande urged Ukraine to show “restraint and good judgment” in its military operations, after Kiev boasted of destroying part of a small Russian military convoy. He suggested that talks could pave the way for a face-to-face encounter between the Russian and Ukrainian state heads.
Russia had dismissed the incursion claims as “fantasies”, but resisted the urge to strike back, as it again denied the persistent allegations from the west that it is arming the rebels.
‘AID’ FROM RUSSIA:
The fate of a Russian aid convoy parked near the border remained uncertain despite both sides appearing to edge closer to a deal to let it into Ukraine.
The Red Cross said its officials had arrived at an area where 300 Russian trucks were waiting, but official inspections of the cargo were yet to begin. A group of 16 trucks reportedly headed in the direction of the crossing.
The west and Kiev fear that the convoy could be a Trojan horse to help the rebels in eastern Ukraine, or provide Moscow with an excuse to send in the 20,000 troops that NATO says it has massed on the border.
The Red Cross has said Russia and Ukraine have agreed on procedures to check the cargo, but “security guarantees” are still needed on how the vehicles can cross rebel-held territory.
Kiev recognised the “legality” of the humanitarian convoy in a statement published on the government website, moving closer to giving the green light for the trucks to enter its territory.
Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko told US Vice President Joe Biden, on Saturday that the separatists had yet to grant safe passage for the aid.
Russia’s foreign ministry has repeatedly demanded that Kiev cease fire in order for the aid to reach residents of blighted cities in eastern Ukraine who have been stuck for days without water or power.