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Published: Saturday August 23, 2014 MYT 12:00:02 AM
Updated: Saturday August 23, 2014 MYT 12:00:06 AM

NATO condemns Russia's action, sees build-up of forces near Ukraine

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen condemned Russia on Friday for sending a "so-called humanitarian convoy" into Ukraine without the consent of Kiev and accused it of escalating the crisis.

Kiev accused Moscow earlier on Friday of launching what it called a "direct invasion" of its territory, while Russia warned against any attempt to disrupt the convoy which it said was a purely humanitarian operation.

"It can only deepen the crisis in the region, which Russia itself has created and has continued to fuel," Rasmussen said in a statement.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said more than 100 trucks had crossed the border, of which only some had been checked earlier by Ukrainian officials inside Russian territory.

Rasmussen also said that NATO had also seen transfers of large quantities of advanced weapons, including tanks, armoured personnel carriers, and artillery to separatist groups in eastern Ukraine.

"Moreover, NATO is observing an alarming build-up of Russian ground and air forces in the vicinity of Ukraine," Rasmussen said.

He said that Russia continued to escalate the situation in Ukraine despite the efforts of the international community to find a political solution to the crisis, adding this can only lead to Russia’s further isolation.

"I strongly urge Russia not to take further provocative actions, to stop destabilising Ukraine and to take genuine steps to resolve this dangerous situation with full respect of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and international law," he said.

(Reporting by Martin Santa and Julia Fioretti; Editing by Toby Chopra)

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