The Kremlin announced it was working with the Red Cross on sending a humanitarian aid convoy to Ukraine and EU Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso has told President Vladimir Putin not to carry out unilateral military action in the region under any pretext.
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen has accused Russia of using humanitarian grounds as a pretext for military intervention in eastern Ukraine.
At least 1,500 people have died since Ukraine’s new government sent in troops to put down an insurrection by pro-Russia separatists in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions in mid-April.
The fighting has displaced hundreds of thousands of people, many of whom have fled to Russia.
Ukrainian forces have now encircled Donetsk, a city of one million people before the unrest began, and residents are struggling without power or reliable sources of food.
In a statement after Vladimir Putin’s conversation with Jose Manuel Barroso, the Kremlin said: “It was noted that the Russian side, in cooperation with representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross, will send to Ukraine a humanitarian convoy.”
It did not say when the aid convoy would leave. The Red Cross acknowledged last week that it had received an offer from the Russian foreign minister about organizing aid convoys to the affected areas in Ukraine.
The Ukrainian government in Kiev and Western powers fear that a Russian humanitarian mission in the east could be used as a pretext to bring Russian military forces across the border.
In a telephone conversation with President Vladimir Putin on Monday, Jose Manuel Barroso “warned against any unilateral military actions in Ukraine, under any pretext, including humanitarian,” an EU commission statement said.
Jose Manuel Barroso made a separate telephone call to Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko to discuss the situation in Luhansk, it added.