Brussels/Donetsk: President Vladimir Putin said on Monday that Russia is sending an aid convoy to eastern Ukraine despite urgent Western warnings against using humanitarian help as a pretext for an invasion.
With Ukraine reporting Russia has massed 45,000 troops on its border, Nato said there was a "high probability" that Moscow could intervene militarily in the country's east, where Kiev forces are closing in on pro-Russian separatists.
European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso delivered a blunt message in a telephone call with Putin yesterday.
"President Barroso warned against any unilateral military actions in Ukraine, under any pretext, including humanitarian," the Commission said in a statement.
The Kremlin, in its own account of the conversation, made clear that Moscow would indeed send help to largely Russian-speaking eastern Ukraine.
"It was noted that the Russian side, in collaboration with representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross, is sending an aid convoy to Ukraine," the Kremlin statement said, without saying when the convoy was going.
UN agencies say more than 1,100 people have been killed including government forces, rebels and civilians in the four months since rebels seized territory in the east and Kiev launched its crackdown.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said he supported an aid mission but made clear it had to be an international effort under the aegis of the Red Cross, involving the European Union as well as Russia.