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Ukraine

Lithuanian diplomat 'murdered in eastern Ukraine'

Lithiuania's honorary consul in eastern Ukraine has been murdered by rebels, according to the country's foreign minister. The diplomat was said to have been kidnapped and "brutally killed" by pro-Russian terrorists.

Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius said Friday that Mykola Zelenec, the country's honorary consul in eastern Ukrainian city of Luhansk, has been kidnapped and killed by the pro-Russian rebels there.

Linkevicius, who is on a visit to Kyiv, posted the news on his Twitter account.

The announcement came after local officials in Ukraine said 20 trucks had entered the pro-Russian stronghold of Luhansk on Friday, despite objections from Kyiv. Lithuania had requested a meeting of the Security Council for late on Friday, describing the convoy as an "invasion."

In a phone call to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Putin said after Kyiv's "clear procrastination," further delays would have been "unacceptable" considering the disaster in the conflict zone. Ukraine's state security chief Valentin Nalivaychenko on Friday said Moscow's decision to start sending the trucks across the border constituted a "direct invasion" and a "well-planned dangerous provocation," according to the Interfax Ukraine news agency. He added that Ukraine would not attack the convoy and wanted to avoid any confrontations.

Alarming buildup of Russian forces

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said on Friday there was an "alarming buildup" of Russian air and ground forces around Ukraine.

"We have also seen transfers of large quantities of advanced weapons, including tanks, armored personnel carriers and artillery to separatist groups in eastern Ukraine," Rasmussen said in a statement.

He sharply criticized Moscow's decision to send the convoy forcefully over the border, saying it was a "blatant breech of Russia's international commitments" and that it "only deepens the crisis."

"The disregard of international humanitarian principles raises further questions about whether the true purpose of the aid convoy is to support civilians or to resupply armed separatists," he added.

Humanitarian crisis

A humanitarian disaster has been unfolding in the conflict zone in eastern Ukraine in recent weeks. According to the United Nations, more than 415,000 people have been displaced since fighting between Ukrainian government forces and pro-Russian separatists began four months ago. More than 2,000 have been killed. Parts of the country have been without running water or electricity for weeks.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is expected to meet with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko on Saturday.

rc/sb (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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