As it happened - Crisis in Ukraine

Key Points

  • Russia has called for an urgent ceasefire in eastern Ukraine to allow aid to reach civilians
  • A huge Russian aid convoy bound for Luhansk in Ukraine has stopped at a Russian town close to the border
  • The Red Cross says it has made contact with the Russian convoy but "practical details remain to be clarified"
  • Ukraine has announced its own aid shipment to Luhansk, a rebel-held city under siege
  • Heaving shelling has killed a number of civilians in the main rebel-held city in east Ukraine, Donetsk
  • A key commander in the pro-Russian rebel movement, Igor "Strelkov" Girkin, is said to have resigned

    Welcome to our live page on the crisis in eastern Ukraine, where shelling has intensified in the city of Donetsk as a large Russian aid convoy heads for the neighbouring rebel-held region of Luhansk.


    More than 100 lorries which left the southern Russian city of Voronezh on Thursday morning are now heading for the border with eastern Ukraine.


    As the convoy closed in on the border, artillery shells were fired at targets in the centre of Donetsk. Ukrainian government forces have encircled the rebel-held city.


    The Russian convoy of trucks, which the Kremlin says is carrying humanitarian aid for Ukraine, has been moving towards the border, along a road south of the city of Voronezh.

    Russian convoy

    Russia's President Vladimir Putin has given a speech in Crimea, saying the war in Ukraine is a "bloody chaos" and must end soon. He said Russia would do "everything in our power" to ensure the conflict is ended "as soon as possible".

    President Putin speaking in Crimea

    Mr Putin urged Russians to "consolidate and mobilise, but not for war or any kind of confrontation". He said: "We must ... build up our country, not fence it off from the outside world." Russia's annexation of Crimea in March triggered a crisis in Russian relations with the West - and both sides have since imposed sanctions on each other.


    Mr Putin says he has approved plans to develop a "military task force" in Crimea, Reuters news agency reports. It is not yet clear what elements will form that force.


    Photographs are coming in from the centre of Donetsk, which came under heavy artillery fire this morning. Here men help a wounded woman in a street. Eyewitnesses said the shelling hit a local prosecutor's office, being used by the insurgents.

    Injured woman is helped in Donetsk
    Robert Holman, in Leixlip, Ireland

    emails: I have a friend in Lugansk and yes their need is dire. No water, limited power or food. But Russian aid given strikes one as hypocritical if not a manipulation of the facts at the hands of Putin and his cohorts. How do we know it is aid and not arms?


    Fighting between Ukrainian government forces and pro-Russian rebels has intensified in eastern Ukraine in recent weeks. The UN says some 2,086 people have been killed since fighting began in April and more than half died in the past two weeks.


    Ukraine's parliament has today approved a law paving the way for far-reaching sanctions against Russia, following sanctions already imposed by the EU and US that target Russian firms and individuals accused of helping the rebels in eastern Ukraine.


    Russia has already banned imports of Ukrainian dairy goods and some other foods, as well as alcoholic drinks.


    Russia has already banned imports of Ukrainian dairy goods and some other foods, as well as alcoholic drinks.


    The Russian convoy of more than 100 lorries has stopped and is parked in a field about 35km (22 miles) from the Ukrainian border, the BBC's Steve Rosenberg reports from the scene. He says it is still unclear what exactly is inside the lorries.

    13:01: Roland Oliphant, Telegraph

    tweets: Looked in two trucks. One full of buckwheat, the other sleeping bags.


    The Ukrainian authorities say they suspect that Russia could use the aid convoy as a means to infiltrate military supplies into the east to help the pro-Russian rebels there. They say the Red Cross must be allowed to inspect the lorries before they cross the border. Russia says such fears are absurd.

    13:06: André van der Goes, Dresden, Germany

    emails: Let us presume that the trucks will get in and deliver the goods. What will they take with them on their journey back into Russia? Fleeing civilians? Rebel-fighters fleeing (evacuating) the encirclement? One should not underestimate what is in Putin's Pandora's-box!

    13:12: The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)

    tweets: Amid the media storm, we stress that aid delivery into east #Ukraine should not be politicized. Our priority remains helping people in need.


    This photograph shows smoke billowing above the city of Donetsk shortly after artillery fire.

    Smokes rises above buildings shortly after shelling in Donetsk

    Another photograph from the centre of Donetsk shows armed men, who are believed to be pro-Russian separatists, covering the body of a victim lying in a street.

    Victim's body being covered in Donetsk

    Ukrainian aid convoys are also on their way by road to Luhansk region in the east, where government forces are battling rebels. The Ukrainian president's website says aid convoys left from Kiev, Kharkiv and Dnipropetrovsk.


    Finland's President Sauli Niinisto says he plans to meet President Putin in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi on Friday in order to "open communication channels" with Russia. The focus will be the Ukraine crisis, he says, but adds that he will not act as a peace mediator. Finland has long been an important trade partner for Russia.

    13:34: Roland Oliphant, Telegraph

    tweets: Never ending this convoy. Trucks 225 to 240 just pulling up now. We're told there are 270 in total.

    13:42: Dmitry Linnik, Radio Moscow,

    tweets: #Russiia trying to deliver humanitarian aid to #Ukraine while #Kiev is pounding #Donetsk from artillery guns. Russian aggression, obviously


    This photograph shows a firefighter fighting to extinguish a fire shortly at a building in Donetsk following the shelling.

    Firefighter in Donetsk
    13:57: Neil, Cambridge

    emails: Ukrainian aid convoys are also on their way by road to Luhansk region in the east, where government forces are battling rebels. The Ukrainian president's website says aid convoys left from Kiev, Kharkiv and Dnipropetrovsk.' Kiev regime shamed into a token gesture by Russia.


    BBC Russian reporter Juri Maloverjan has posted this photograph of the convoy of trucks parked 20km (12 miles) from town of Donetsk, on the Russian side of the border. The town is a long way from the Ukrainian city of Donetsk.

    Trucks parked up
    14:11: Tebenema

    tweets: @BBC_HaveYourSay aid convoy is one thing,but Ukraine now is restoring all destroyed bridges, roads, water, gas, electricity in freed Donbass

    Courtney Weaver, Financial Times reporter following the Russian convoy,

    tweets: Tan men said they're 'volunteers' but 1 said many were army veterans. Say they're waiting for orders on when to go to border & where to.


    Another photograph from BBC's Juri Maloverjan, who is following the Russian convoy, shows the trucks parked up in a field.

    Russian trucks
    14:29: Shaun Walker, from the Guardian

    tweets: Spent a couple of hours with the Russian convoy which has stopped, possibly for some time. Field camp being set up


    This photograph shows truck drivers from the Russian convoy gathering at a camp:

    Truck drivers gather at their camp

    Other photographs of the Russian trucks parked near the border with Ukraine show military helicopters hovering overhead:

    Helicopter hovers over trucks

    Reports on the Russian social network vKontakte, from rebel sources in Donetsk, say at least two civilians were killed in the latest shelling of the city. Some shells landed near buildings occupied by rebel forces. But some also hit up-market houses in a village called Lipki, as well as two shopping centres and a university building, the sources say.


    Liliya, a resident of Donetsk, tells the Reuters news agency that shells also hit her home in the city. She said: "If I had been in the kitchen, there would be nothing left of me because the ceiling crashed down. It simply fell down. First there was noise and then the blast followed and that's it."

    BBC's Daniel Sandford

    tweets: It is several hours now since President Putin made his speech in Crimea. Russian TV has shown pictures. But no audio. Very, very strange


    Ukrainian Social Policy Minister Lyudmyla Denysova has called on Russia to hand over the cargo of its humanitarian convoy for eastern Ukraine to the International Committee of the Red Cross at the Ukrainian border, after which the Ukrainian authorities will help the ICRC distribute it, the Interfax-Ukraine news agency reports.


    Ms Denysova is quoted as saying: "If Russia really wants to help residents of Donetsk and Luhansk regions, it should hand the cargo over to the Red Cross."

    Anders Fogh Rasmussen, NATO General Secretary

    tweets about talks with the Norweigan prime minister: Meeting @erna_solberg at critical time. #Russia's aggression against #Ukraine shows rule of law & peace in Europe can't be taken for granted


    The BBC's Daniel Sandford, who is following the parked convoy, said: "The key question now is what Russia does next. If it takes the convoy across the border, it will be seen by the Ukrainian authorities as a major provocation."


    Our correspondent says he was allowed to look inside one lorry, which contained sleeping bags, and spoke to one of the convoy drivers, who he says was "very anti-American and asked why the United States was trying to take Ukraine away from Russia".

    15:34: The International Committee of the Red Cross

    tweets: We have made initial contact with the #Russia-led aid convoy, Rostov region, #Ukraine. Many practical details are still to be clarified.

    15:39: The International Committee of the Red Cross

    tweets: We're told a #Ukraine-led aid convoy is on its way to the east. We're talking to #Ukraine about how this operation will be conducted.


    David Stern, the BBC's Kiev Correspondent, says heavy shelling in Donetsk on Thursday killed at least one person and injured several others.


    Our correspondent said: "This is not the first time that artillery shells have struck the centre of Donetsk, but it is the worst instance so far. The shells were said to have landed close to an international hotel and government offices. It is not clear who fired them; human rights groups have accused both sides of firing on civilian targets."


    This photograph, taken earlier, shows a Russian missile launcher travelling alongside the aid convoy:

    Russian missile launcher travelling with convoy
    Sophia, Oxford, UK

    emails: "I will be really surprised that it is humanitarian aid. Putin and his government have proved time and time again that they cannot be trusted."

    Christopher Miller, Editor at the Kyiv Post

    tweets on Ukrainian businessman Rinat Akhmetov: Akhmetov to send ~10,000 tons of humanitarian aid in tranches to #Donetsk, #Luhansk oblasts beginning Aug. 20, says the oligarch's spox.

    16:08: Max Seddon, Foreign Affairs Reporter at Buzzfeed

    tweets: Akhmetov resurfaces, says he's readying 10,000 tons of aid for 1 million people in Donetsk & Lugansk to be delivered next week, per release.


    The Ukrainian authorities say they have effectively cut off pro-Russian separatists in the city of Luhansk from other rebel-held areas by capturing the nearby village of Novosvitlivka, the Interfax-Ukraine news agency reports. Novosvitlivka lies about 9km (six miles) south-east of Luhansk.

    16:29: The Guardian newspaper's Shaun Walker

    tweets: Saw one car with diplo plates, Red Cross insignia at convoy site. Two foreign ICRC officials inside. Refused to speak

    Anser Kiani, Donetsk

    emails: Donetsk is already a war zone. Gunfire, bombs, destruction everywhere. No law and order. I am surprised by the human rights organisations. I have not seen any single organisation who came here to help people.

    Max Seddon, Foreign Affairs Reporter at Buzzfeed

    tweets: Official says the Russian convoy will stay by the Ukrainian border possibly until Sunday while "documents filled out"


    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and his Ukrainian counterpart Pavlo Klimkin have discussed the Russian convoy. The Russian foreign ministry said the conversation was part of "continuing intense contacts" involving Russia, Ukraine and the International Committee of the Red Cross. "They discussed the practical aspects of the swift realization of an initiative to provide humanitarian assistance to the population of southeast Ukraine," the ministry said.


    One of the key figures in the separatist movement, Igor Strelkov, has resigned as rebel "defence minister" in Donetsk, Russian media report. He has been replaced by a rebel named Vladimir Kononov, reports say, quoting a rebel spokesman. The rebels also denied rumours that Strelkov - real name Igor Girkin - had been wounded. Strelkov is reported to be a Russian secret service officer.

    Steven Marwood

    tweets: @BBC_HaveYourSay Why cant the UN take over the aid delivery under their umbrella, using troops from say Australia or Japan to keep peace?

    Jagdeep Hundal, London, UK

    emails: "I feel the West should help the Ukrainian government with military aid including the use of drones to get rid of the pro-Russian insurgents. They are the ones who do not want Ukraine to have peace. The world should now open its eyes and see that Ukraine need its help. I commend the Ukrainian authorities to continue to stand up against the aggressors. I think Russia is trying to take over Ukraine bit by bit."

    Larry Sirhall, Idaho, US

    emails: "I do not believe Putin can turn his back on the rebels as it would be a humiliating defeat for him. The West's sanctions prevent real action while the Ukrainian army annihilates his people. In conclusion, we cannot make the fatal mistake of underestimating Mr Putin's determination."


    Alexander Borodai, former prime minister of the self-declared Donetsk People's Republic (DPR), told Russian media that Strelkov had resigned from his post, without giving the reason. He also said reports that Strelkov had been injured were "total rubbish".

    "You probably already know that he, like myself, has left his post," Mr Borodai told Russia's pro-Kremlin Life News website. "The DPR already has a new defence minister." Mr Borodai said the new defence minister went by the nom de guerre Tsar.

    Patrick Matthiesem, USA

    emails: I am in regular internet touch with a resident in Torez near Donetsk. This is supposed now to be in government hands yet she says she has to sleep in a cellar and can only go out on the street virtually on hands and knees 'like a snake' to use her expression because of bullets flying. She says explosions and 'bombs' are a regular fact of life (probably mortars). She says the Ukrainian national forces are dropping bombs on them yet it may be Separatist mortars.


    The news about Strelkov comes in a week that has seen two other high-profile resignations of rebel leaders. Mr Borodai handed over to Alexander Zakharchenko as "prime minister" in Donetsk. Later the rebel chief in besieged Luhansk, Valery Bolotov, said he was temporarily handing over to his defence minister, Igor Plotnitskiy.


    A cult has been built up around Strelkov, both among the rebels and their supporters in Russia. The upper photo shows Strelkov (centre) in Donetsk on 11 July. In the lower photo, a poster in eastern Ukraine depicts the rebel commander as the leader of "300 Spartans" fighting Ukraine's government forces.

    Strelkov (centre) in Donetsk, 11 July
    Poster of Strelkov in eastern Ukraine, 12 June
    Andrew Roth, New York Times

    tweets: Big sweep of rebel leadership: Strelkov, Borodai, Bolotov all "out" (at least officially). Will Bezler 'the Demon,' be the last standing?


    Fifteen people were killed by a shell explosion in Zugres, a village in Donetsk region, on Wednesday, Donetsk regional officials say. The officials are quoted by Russian and Ukrainian news agencies. The dead reportedly include three children.


    If you are just joining us, welcome to our live coverage of the crisis in eastern Ukraine, as a huge Russian aid convoy pulls up close to the border with Ukraine, in an area under rebel control. Across the border fighting is raging as government forces push back the rebels, amid fears Russia may use the convoy as a pretext to intervene militarily on the rebel side. Stay with us for live updates, analysis and colour from correspondents, and comment from BBC News readers.

    Russian aid convoy parked near Ukrainian border, 14 August
    BBC's Steve Rosenberg

    tweets At the Russian aid convoy, now parked off the main highway, I asked to look in a lorry: no secret weapons stash... just sleeping bags


    Other foreign media were allowed to peek in too, apparently at random. Andrew Roth of the New York Times tweeted this photo. He says he saw "buckwheat, sleeping bags and a mechanics workshop".

    Interior of Russian aid lorry, 14 August
    17:36: Leonid Ragozin

    tweets: Any journalists left in Donetsk? What locals report is pretty horrendous - a city of a million turning into a battlefield.


    Russian President Putin (left) and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev look relaxed as they tour the House Museum of revered Russian writer Anton Chekhov in Yalta, Crimea.

    Russia's President Vladimir Putin (L) and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev visit the House-Museum of revered Russian writer Anton Chekhov in Yalta, Crimea

    tweets: @BBC_HaveYourSay #Russia 270 trucks x 2 drivers=540 military personal trying to enter illegally #Ukraine.


    In Donetsk, people have been loading their furniture into vehicles as they leave after the shelling.

    People loading furniture into a van

    It's been 29C in Luhansk, the besieged city at the heart of the aid controversy, where there has been no running water, no electricity and no phone links for 12 days. A quarter of a million people still live in this city where the pre-war population was 425,000. Read our account of the situation there.


    Downing Street says UK Prime Minister David Cameron has today spoken to German Chancellor Angela Merkel about the situation in Ukraine and the movement of Russian aid convoys across the border, which "they agreed could not be used as pretext for further destabilisation of eastern Ukraine", No 10 said.


    It's not just the Russians wanting to deliver aid to Luhansk: Ukraine says it has 75 lorries on their way, carrying 800 tonnes of aid. Read our Q&A on the aid controversy.

    Ukrainian aid convoy near Kharkiv, 14 August
    Chriustopher Miller, Kyiv Post,

    tweets: DNR says Girkin/Strelkov appointed to chief of general staff. 'His candidacy will be put up for approval by DNR Supreme Council tomorrow.


    Russian President Vladimir Putin has said "many European leaders" are eager to end the sanctions imposed on Russia because they are "damaging our cooperation" - Reuters.


    The BBC's Russian Service has published a harrowing gallery of images from Donetsk after the latest bombardment. Warning: some photographs may cause distress.


    Russia's foreign ministry has called for an "urgent ceasefire" in the combat zone in south-east Ukraine to allow for the distribution of humanitarian aid. "We call on the warring sides to show the necessary political will to relieve the dire situation of the afflicted region's inhabitants," it said in a statement on its website (in Russian).


    tweets: @BBC_HaveYourSay 100% a Invasion force. From the troop buildup, I give it Sunday or Monday for everything to be setup for the push!


    Here is a map, courtesy of the Associated Press agency, showing the original route the convoy intended to take into Ukraine and where it is now.

    Map of convoy route
    18:43: Stephane Siohan, French journalist in Kiev

    tweets (translated from French): The Ukrainian army continues its NOT VERY surgical strikes on Donetsk and Luhansk. 22 deaths in Luhansk, 74 in Donetsk in 3 days. Too many.


    One side effect of the fighting in eastern Ukraine is that around half of the 115 coal mines in the country - Europe's second-largest coal producer - have halted production entirely, meaning output fell 22% year on year in July, the chairman of the Independent Union of Miners tells Reuters.

    18:47: Adsapp

    tweets: Red Cross, OSCE set terms for help on Russian aid convoy for Ukraine #adsapp

    18:49: Andrew Roth, New York Times

    tweets: Military transports kept rolling by toward border...

    Russian armour on the move in southern Russia, 14 August

    Ukraine is to ask that two Russian airlines - Aeroflot and Transaero - seek permission for every flight they make over its territory, because the airlines fly over disputed Crimean airspace, Reuters is reporting. Ukraine's State Aviation Administration is reported as saying the move would improve aviation safety. Ukrainian officials consider airspace over Crimea to be closed.


    Reports of tents being put up by truckers from the Russian convoy, which has stopped outside the Russian town of Kamensk-Shakhtinsky, some 30km (18 miles) from the border with Ukraine.


    Photos of the aftermath of today's heavy shelling of Donetsk, the rebel-held city of a million people in eastern Ukraine.

    An abandoned shoe beside bloodstains in Donetsk, 14 August
    A body lies covered on a street of Donetsk, 14 August
    A woman carries a dog after shelling through a street in Donetsk, 14 August
    A shattered window in Donetsk, 14 August

    Sir Andrew Wood, former British ambassador to Russia, tells BBC World News Today he is "not surprised the Ukrainian authorities are deeply suspicious" about the convoy. "This is a group of 280 lorries, all of which are military lorries painted white. They have stopped at military bases along the way and are clearly following an order to prevaricate about what exactly is in the lorries."

    Sir Andrew Wood

    And that concludes our live coverage of the dramatic events along the Russo-Ukrainian border, where the huge convoy of Russian lorries has pulled up. Hopes that relief will finally reach the besieged inhabitants of the Ukrainian city of Luhansk are tempered by concern that Russia may use this humanitarian initiative to intervene militarily in east Ukraine's murderous conflict. For further developments, follow our story.


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