Poroshenko emphasized the need to elect new leaders from the war-torn areas of east Ukraine in order to represent the region in the new government. It wasn’t clear how it would be possible to conduct elections on such short notice in Donetsk and Luhansk, where hundreds of thousands have fled their homes, and shelling between rebel and government forces continues daily.
Over the past month, Ukrainian forces have made substantial inroads against pro-Russia separatists in eastern Ukraine, taking control of several sizeable towns and cities that had been under rebel control since April, when the clashes began.
Earlier Monday, a Ukrainian official said a column of Russian tanks and armored vehicles entered southeastern Ukraine — a move that brings the conflict to an area that has so far escaped the intense fighting of recent weeks.
Col. Andriy Lysenko, a spokesman for Ukraine’s National Security Council, told reporters that the column of 10 tanks, two armored vehicles and two trucks crossed the border near the village of Shcherbak and that shells were fired from Russia toward the nearby city of Novoazovsk. He said they were Russian military vehicles bearing the flags of the separatist Donetsk rebels. The village is in the Donetsk region, but not under the control of the rebels.
The Ukrainian National Guard later said two of the tanks had been destroyed.
In Moscow, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said he had no information about the column.
Russia announced plans, meanwhile, to send a second aid convoy into rebel-held eastern Ukraine, where months of fighting have left many residential buildings in ruins.
Russia’s unilateral dispatch of more 200 trucks into Ukraine on Friday was denounced by the Ukrainian government as an invasion and condemned by the United States, the European Union and NATO. Even though the tractor-trailers returned to Russia without incident Saturday, the announcement of another convoy was likely to raise new suspicions.
Both Poroshenko and Russian President Vladimir Putin will attend a summit today in Minsk, Belarus, that could be aimed at pressuring Ukraine into seeking a negotiated end to the conflict rather than a military victory.