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Lavrov: Russian military in Ukraine claims 'conjecture'

Sergei Lavrov said no "facts" had been presented to Russia.
Sergei Lavrov said no "facts" had been presented to Russia on the issue. Credit: AA/TT

Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said allegations Russia's military is fighting in eastern Ukraine are "conjecture".

"We're hearing various conjectures, not for the first time, but not once have any facts been presented to us," he said at a news conference.

UN: More than 2,500 killed in eastern Ukraine fighting

Almost 3,000 have died in eastern Ukraine including the victims of the MH17 plane crash.
Almost 3,000 have died in eastern Ukraine including the victims of the MH17 plane crash. Credit: Reuters

A total of 2,593 people have died in fighting in eastern Ukraine since mid-April, a senior UN human rights official has said.

"The trend is clear and alarming. There is a significant increase in the death toll in the east," said Ivan Simonovic, UN Assistant Secretary General for Human Rights.

"The current number of killed is 2,593 - close to 3,000 if we include the 298 victims of the MH17 (Malaysian airliner) plane crash," he added.

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Rebels 'agree to provide humanitarian corridor'

A leader of pro-Moscow rebel forces in eastern Ukraine, Alexander Zakharchenko, said he had agreed to open a humanitarian corridor for encircled Ukraine troops after Russian President Vladimir Putin's statement.

Putin called on the rebels to provide the corridor in the east of the country to allow Ukrainian government troops to leave the battlefield.

"We are ready to give a humanitarian corridor," Zakharchenko, prime minister of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic, told Rossiya 24 TV, adding that troops would have to leave their heavy armoured vehicles and ammunition.

Ukraine rebels 'torturing civilians and holding hostages'

Pro-Russian insurgents in eastern Ukraine are "regularly" detaining and torturing civilians, campaigners claim.

Rebels are said to have targeted journalists and political opponents.
Rebels are said to have targeted journalists and political opponents. Credit: Reuters

Human Rights Watch says fighters supporting rebel strongholds in the region have "captured hundreds of civilians" including journalists, pro-Ukrainian political activists and in some cases their family members since April.

The organisation says that in August alone researchers in eastern Ukraine documented 20 cases in which rebel fighters had captured civilians, and said they interviewed people who claimed to have been tortured or held for ransom.

Pro-Russian insurgents are regularly committing horrendous crimes.

There are solid grounds to be seriously concerned about the safety and well-being of anyone held by insurgent forces in eastern Ukraine.

– Hugh Williamson, Human Rights Watch

Human Rights Watch also said it had seen evidence of extra-judicial death sentences against members of the public.

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Obama: Russia 'trains, arms and funds' Ukraine rebels

US President Barack Obama has warned that Russia faces "more costs and consequences" if it continues to aid rebels in eastern Ukraine.

President Obama
President Obama Credit: Reuters

In a news conference at the White House, he said:

The violence is encouraged by Russia. The separatists are trained by Russia. They are armed by Russia. They are funded by Russia. Russia has repeatedly and deliberately violated the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, and the new images of Russian forces inside Ukraine make that plain for the world to see ...

As a result of the actions Russia has already taken, and the major sanctions we have imposed with our European and international partners, Russia is already more isolated than at any time since the Cold War ... This ongoing Russian incursion into Ukraine will only bring more costs and consequences for Russia.

– president Obama

Fifteen civilians killed as battle for Donetsk rages on

Fifteen civilians were killed after Donetsk came under more heavy shelling today, according to city authorities.

A car on fire in Donetsk in eastern Ukraine
A car on fire in Donetsk in eastern Ukraine Credit: APTN

People ran for shelter after shells fell on a market area of the eastern Ukrainian city. Emergency services rushed to carry away the casualties and out out fires in apartment buildings and cars.

A balcony and windows blown out by shelling at an apartment block in Donetsk
A balcony and windows blown out by shelling at an apartment block in Donetsk Credit: Reuters

Some apartment buildings showed signs of extensive damage from two weeks of shelling as Ukrainian forces try to wrest the city from the grip of pro-Russia rebels.

Damage to an apartment building
Damage to an apartment building Credit: Reuters

Local media agencies also distributed footage purporting to show civilians killed by shelling in the streets.

US: Sanctions are 'most effective tool' against Russia

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki has said the US is considering a "range of tools" to deal with what it sees as Russian aggression in Ukraine.

She said increased sanctions on Russia are "the most effective tool, the best tool."

"A military solution is not what we think is the appropriate approach so we're taking every tool that we can to see if we can reach a solution here through diplomatic means," she said.

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