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UNITED NATIONS -- The United States warned Russia on Friday that any further intervention in Ukraine, including under the pretense of delivering humanitarian aid, would be viewed as "an invasion of Ukraine."
U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power delivered the warning at a Security Council meeting focusing on the human rights situation in Ukraine's east, where government forces are fighting pro-Russian separatists. Reports by the West and the Kiev government have accused Moscow of dispatching what NATO estimates is 20,000 troops to the border.
Power said Russia has not only increased aid to the separatists but has amassed "more and more" troops and hardware near the border, began extensive military exercises this week and launched shells across the border.
At an emergency council meeting on the humanitarian situation in Ukraine called by Russia, Russia's U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin called the situation in the east, particularly in separatist-held Luhansk and Donetsk, "disastrous" and said Moscow wants to send a humanitarian convoy to the two areas.
Power noted that Russia floated the idea again last week of sending Russian peacekeepers to eastern Ukraine.
"A Russian peacekeeper in Ukraine is an oxymoron," Power said. "At every step in this crisis, Russians have sabotaged peace, not built it, and it is particularly worrisome given Russia's purported annexation of Crimea... Peacekeepers are impartial, yet Russia fully supports Russia's armed separatists in this conflict."
Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Ivan Simonovic, briefing the council by videoconference from Croatia, welcomed Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko's proposal for a new round of talks to find a way to restore a cease-fire.
He warned that "the fabric" of Ukrainian society is being torn apart by the ongoing violence, the use of "hate speech" is increasing especially in social media, and there is "what amounts to a reign of fear and terror in areas under control of the armed groups, with a breakdown of law and order."