SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – Nato is holding an emergency summit on Friday to address the worsening situation in Ukraine where sepretists have been advancing in a new front to the southeast of the country and Moscow’s involvement raises the spectre of further tit-for-tat sanctions. Ukrainian television reported on Friday morning that Russian troops alongside pro-Russian rebels had overnight advanced from the small Ukrainian border town of Novoazovsk to within 20km of Mariupol, a strategic Azov Sea coast port and steel production town. The claim can not be confirmed.
Moscow’s involvement in Ukraine triggered a backlash against Moscow, with US President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel agreeing to consider new sanctions against Russia. Overnight, Russian President Vladimir Putin called for “surrounded” Ukrainian troops to be allowed to retreat “to avoid any needless loss of life”.
In an address to the “militia of Novorossiya” – a term, meaning “New Russia”, that rebels and Russian nationalists use to refer to eastern Ukraine – Mr Putin called on Kiev “to immediately stop military actions, cease fire, [and] sit down at the negotiating table”. Alexander Zakharchenko, a separatist leader, on Friday thanked Mr Putin for the “moral support” provided by Russia and said he was prepared to open a “humanitarian corridor” to allow Ukrainian troops to retreat if they surrendered their weapons and ammunition.
It was not immediately clear if Kiev would accept the offer to withdraw from eastern regions where Russian-backed rebels had encircled their forces. As Ukrainian troops that have been encircled in some towns, including Ilovaysk just south east of Donetsk, continued on Friday to plead for further back-up, the Russian-backed advance into the southeastern corner of Ukraine forced Kiev to divert resources to defend the new front.