As it happened: Ukraine crisis

Key Points

  • Ukrainian troops withdraw from the airport in the eastern city of Luhansk after heavy fighting with rebels
  • Pro-Russia separatists gain ground around Donetsk and south around the port of Mariupol
  • Ukrainian and Russian officials are due to hold talks with separatist rebels and international monitors in the Belarusian capital, Minsk
  • Russia's foreign minister calls for talks on "immediate ceasefire" in Ukraine
  • All times BST (GMT + 1 hour)

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    Welcome to our live coverage of unfolding events in Ukraine, where Russia's foreign minister has called for an immediate ceasefire ahead of key negotiations due later on Monday.


    Both Ukrainian and Russian officials are due to attend a meeting of the Contact Group in Minsk, which includes representatives from the OSCE (Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe).


    Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko accuses Russia of launching "direct and open aggression" against Ukraine, which he says "has changed the situation in the zone of conflict in a radical way" - via Reuters


    On the eve of talks, Russian President Vladimir Putin said the question of statehood for eastern Ukraine must be part of substantive negotiations.


    A spokesman for Ukraine's military says it is battling a Russian tank contingent in the eastern city of Luhansk, and has accused Russia of sending military units into the region, including Donetsk.


    "The battle between Ukrainian paratroopers and a reinforced tank battalion of the Russian armed forces is continuing with the goal of controlling the Luhansk airfield," military spokesman Leonid Matyukhin wrote on his Facebook page.

    Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov attends a meeting with students at Moscow State Institute of International Relations in Moscow September 1, 2014.

    The West has warned Russia against interfering in eastern Ukraine - and threatened further sanctions. But Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says any new sanctions would force Russia to protect its economy, citizens and businesses.


    The BBC's David Stern, in Kiev, says amid a sense of pessimism there is a small spark of hope that a ceasefire may be agreed in the upcoming talks.

    Rebels have made very large gains in the last week, he continues, moving beyond the centre of Donetsk. Ukrainian troops are digging their heels in, in Mariupol, where they are preparing for an attack, with a large stream of people leaving the city in fear of attack by pro-Russia separatists.


    Ukraine's permanent representative to the OSCE, Ihor Prokopchuk, is appealing to the international community to put more pressure on Moscow by "providing significant practical support to Ukraine" i.e. military aid.

    Steve Rosenberg BBC News, Moscow

    tweets: Lavrov describes EU position on Ukraine as a "dead-end", hopes Russia "won't be forced to end its European direction" because of it


    Fighters from across Europe are being drawn into the Ukraine conflict and are fighting on both sides, writes the BBC's Patrick Jackson. Russian, Chechnyan, French, Spanish, Serbian, Swedish, Polish, German, American and Italian are among the nationalities reported to be on the ground in Ukraine.


    Russian President Vladimir Putin is urging the EU to show "common sense" and not impose further sanctions on Russia, according to Russian news agencies.

    "I hope that common sense will prevail and we will work in a normal modern way, and that neither we nor our partners will bear the costs of these mutual jabs," Interfax quotes him as saying.

    Pro-Russian rebels prepare arms for the assault on the positions of Ukrainian army in Donetsk airport, eastern Ukraine, Sunday 31st August

    Clashes are said to be taking place near the city of Donetsk. These Pro-Russian rebels are trying to take Ukrainian army positions in Donetsk airport.


    There is some confusion over whether the battle for the international airport in the eastern city of Luhansk is still ongoing (as the Ukrainian military claims) or if it is already under the control of the rebels (as the separatists have claimed).


    Some 2,600 people have died in eastern Ukraine since fighting began in April between pro-Russia separatists (pictured near Donetsk on Sunday) and Ukrainian government troops.

    Pro-Russian fighters sit on top of their T-64 tank in Starobesheve, south east of Donetsk, on 31 August 2014.

    Russia's parliamentary speaker Valentina Matviyenko says Russia won't be intimidated by European sanctions, adding that the Ukrainian authorities were to blame for the fighting in the east, Russia's Itar-Tass news agency reports.


    "It is clear to everyone that this deadlock is the result of the actions of the authorities in Kiev. There is a need to recognize right now that the situation is at a deadlock and that this massacre cannot continue," Ms Matviyenko said.


    Reuters reports that two Ukrainians are still missing after a separatist rebel artillery attack on a Ukrainian patrol boat in the Sea of Azov, a Ukrainian border guard official said on Monday. Eight seamen were rescued in the incident.


    Australian PM Tony Abbott announces in parliament a tightening of sanctions against Russia over the Ukraine crisis. This means no new arms exports to Moscow or new access by Russian state-owned banks to Australian capital markets, he adds.


    "If Russian troops remain in Ukraine, if Russia persists in its attempt to break up a neighbouring country that has done it no harm, it risks becoming a international pariah," Mr Abbott told the Australian parliament.

    Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott speaks during a press conference at Parliament House in Canberra, Australia, 31 August 2014.

    Keir Giles from the Conflict Studies Research Centre in Oxford has written a piece for the BBC looking at Putin's strategy in Ukraine, and what he is trying to achieve.


    The BBC's Richard Galpin describes the tense situation in Mariupol, south-eastern Ukraine: "Thousands of people have already left....I've heard of one person who has been going to work in the past few days only to find her colleagues coming in with bags packed ready to go in case of an attack by pro-Russian separatists. People are on edge. The Ukrainian military is trying to fortify the city ahead of a potential attack."


    Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin is in the Siberian city of Yakutsk with China's deputy prime minister, to attend a ceremony marking the start of construction of a major gas pipeline linking the two countries.

    Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, listens to an explanation during a visit to the Mammoth Museum of the North-Eastern State University in Yakutsk, Russia, on 1 September 2014.

    In May this year, Russia signed a deal worth an estimated $400bn to supply China with natural gas for 30 years, starting in 2018.


    The BBC looks at the key players in east Ukraine, from both sides of the conflict.


    Representatives from Ukraine, OSCE and Russia have arrived in Minsk for trilateral talks on the Ukraine crisis. The discussions are expected to start at 14:00 local time (11:00 GMT), the Belarusian Foreign Ministry tells Interfax-West news agency (via BBC Monitoring).


    Earlier on Monday, Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko accused Moscow of "direct and open aggression" against his country.

    Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko speaks in front of cadets during Knowledge Day celebrations in Kiev, 1 September 2014.
    Will Vernon in Ukraine
    A rebel tank near Novoazovsk flying the flag of Novorossiya

    tweets: A rebel tank near #Novoazovsk flying the flag of '#Novorossiya'. Commander says they "took it from the Ukrainians"


    The new woman in charge of EU foreign policy, Federica Mogherini, has voiced strong criticism of Russia's actions in Ukraine.

    "It's in the interests of all countries that share a geographical space to cooperate and work together. But that's not what's happening. The Russian actions go in the opposition direction: military aggression, provocations… In this phase the Kremlin is acting against the interests of its own people," she tells Italy's Corriere della Sera (in Italian).

    Breaking News

    Ukrainian troops retreat from Luhansk international airport after heavy fighting with rebels, the military says.

    Ukrainian National Security and Defence Council

    tweets (in Ukrainian): "Ukrainian troops have withdrawn from Heorhiyevka and Luhansk Airport in an organised manner"


    Seven Ukrainian service personnel have been killed in the past 24 hours, Ukrainian military spokesman Andriy Lysenko is quoted by Reuters as saying.


    "In the Luhansk direction, Ukrainian forces have received an order and have pulled back from the airport," Andriy Lysenko told reporters.

    "Judging by the precision of the strikes, professional artillery men of the Russian armed forces are the ones firing," he added.


    Germany's Angela Merkel acknowledges that further sanctions against Russia could hurt the German economy, but says that doing nothing to stop Moscow's aggression in Ukraine was "not an option".

    "There is also an impact when you are allowed to move borders in Europe and attack other countries with your troops," she tells reporters in Berlin.


    Life goes on as normal elsewhere in Ukraine, as children and their parents come out to mark the first day of the academic year, known as "Knowledge Day"

    Students dance during morning assembly in a school in the southern coastal town of Mariupol, on 1 September 2014. Children dance during morning assembly in Mariupol
    Pupils of the Ukrainian school carry bouquets of flowers during a ceremony at the start of the school year known as "Day of Knowledge" in eastern Ukrainian city of Sloviansk, Ukraine, on 1 September 2014. Students carry bouquets of flowers in Sloviansk
    Students attend their first lesson of the day in a school in the southern coastal town of Mariupol, 1 September 2014. Back to school in Mariupol

    The current crisis in Ukraine is widely recognised to be Europe's biggest security crisis since the Cold War period, which ended in 1989, writes the BBC's Laurence Peter in his piece Why is Ukraine at war?


    The secretary general of the OSCE (Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe) Lamberto Zannier, tells the BBC it is difficult to confirm the presence of regular Russian forces operating within Ukrainian territory - a claim Russia denies.

    11:39: Russian Foreign Ministry

    tweets: #Lavrov: Let's sit down at the negotiating table instead of waging sanctions and stumbling on #Ukraine's unrealistic demands

    11:47: Steve Rosenberg BBC News, Moscow

    tweets: During a museum visit today, V.Putin enquired about the possibility of ressurecting a mammoth (no, not the USSR..the big woolly animal kind)


    Russia's energy minister says Russia and Ukraine have agreed to hold talks to resolve the gas crisis on 6 September, and is awaiting a response from the EU, Reuters reports. In June Russia halted gas deliveries to Ukraine because of a price dispute, but large volumes still transit Ukraine to reach EU countries.

    11:52: Hamish Macdonald International Affairs Correspondent, ABC

    tweets: On the edges of Mariupol, Ukrainian soldiers are manning the trenches and listening to Pharrell's 'Happy'


    The threat of further sanctions against Russia and reports of Russian tanks in Luhansk has sent the Russian Rouble to a new record low of 37.4610 in afternoon trading, AFP reports.


    Russian state TV channel Rossiya 24 is broadcasting footage of the badly damaged Luhansk airport, which it says has been seized by the rebels after heavy fighting with Ukrainian troops.

    Damaged Luhansk international airport on 1 September 2014
    Damaged Luhansk international airport on 1 September 2014

    From independence in 1991 and the Orange Revolution in 2004 to the turbulent events of the past year, the BBC has compiled a timeline of the Ukraine crisis.


    The possible declaration of martial law will be discussed at a meeting on Monday afternoon between Ukrainian President Poroshenko and the leaders of various parliamentary blocs, Interfax-Ukraine reports, quoting Sergei Sobolev of Ukraine's Fatherland Party.

    Separately, Ukraine's defence minister will brief parliament on the situation near Ilovaysk, where many Ukrainian soldiers have been killed, wounded or taken captive, he adds.


    Many people have fled the fighting in eastern Ukraine. Some 155,800 of these have gone elsewhere in Ukraine while at least 188,000 have gone to Russia. This child is being taken to temporary accommodation in Krasnoyarsk, Siberia.

    A child looks out of a train window as people who have fled from fighting in eastern regions of Ukraine arrive to a railway station on their way to a temporary accommodation in the local cities and settlements of Siberia, in Krasnoyarsk, 1 September 2014.

    Nato Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen is addressing reporters ahead of the start of the Nato summit, which begins this week in Newport, Wales.


    "What we have seen unfortunately is that Russia is in a basic breach of the fundamental principles of the Nato-Russia Founding Act, and we urge Russia to comply with the provisions of (this) act," Mr Rasmussen says.

    Olexiy Solohubenko, BBC News

    tweets: Key question is if #Ukraine army can recover from recent losses and turn things around. Luhansk airport is the latest demoralising loss.


    Russia's Ria Novosti news agency has published a list of demands from the separatist leaders in Donetsk and Luhansk on Twitter. These include demands to the authorities in Kiev to "to acknowledge their special status" and the right to officially use the Russian language in these territories.


    Ahead of talks in Minsk on Monday, Ukrainian separatist leader Andrey Purgin has said the rebels' demand for independence remains unchanged, Russia's Interfax news agency reports.

    "We also plan to discuss the issue of exchanging prisoners and a temporary ceasefire," Mr Purgin said.

    Peter Doran

    tweets to ask: @BBC_HaveYourSay Can NATO seriously consider post-election negotiation with Ukraine if it cannot guarantee its territorial integrity?

    National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine
    Situation, East Ukraine as of 1 September according to Ukraine

    tweets: Current situation in the East of #Ukraine, September 1 (big size map: )


    More from the Nato chief's press conference, in which Mr Rasmussen said he expected the Ukrainian parliament to change the law on its non-aligned status after the parliamentary elections in October. This could be a possible prelude to an application to join Nato, Reuters reports.


    Photographs of devastation caused by weeks of shelling in Luhansk have been posted on a local news website, BBC Monitoring's Vitaliy Shevchenko reports. Rebel-held Luhansk, which used to be a city of almost half a million people, has been without electricity and reliable water supplies for almost a month now. Food supplies are running low as well.

    Carl Bildt, Swedish foreign minister

    tweets: Russian forces inside Ukraine continue their offensive against Ukraine forces. Consolidating and slightly enlarging the separatist enclave.


    At least 2,593 people have been killed in fighting since mid-April, according to a UN report on 29 August

    A Ukrainian attack helicopter flies near a military camp in Kramatorsk town, near Sloviansk, Ukraine on 1 September 2014.

    Ukraine's national bank is introducing restrictions on foreign exchange operations "taking into account social and political tension", Interfax-Ukraine news agency reports. It has "banned the withdrawal of foreign currency under payment cards, introduced mandatory conversion of money transfers into hryvnia and slowed down the procedure for buying foreign currency on the interbank foreign exchange market from 2 September".


    Closed-door talks in Minsk between Russian and Ukrainian officials and the OSCE have started, a correspondent for Russia's Interfax news agency reports. Russia is represented by its ambassador in Ukraine, Mikhail Zurabov, while Ukraine is represented by former President Leonid Kuchma.


    Ukrainian journalist Roman Bochkala reports that some Ukrainian troops have been taken prisoner during the fighting at Luhansk airport. He reports that "regular troops from Russia" took part in the fighting, including "paratroopers and marines."


    Meanwhile, the Ukrainian UNIAN news agency reports that as many as 680 Ukrainian servicemen have been captured in the Donetsk region after recent fighting, 80% of them in the area near Ilovaysk.


    The Russian Interfax agency reports that the meeting of the "contact group" - made up of officials from Russia, Ukraine and the OSCE - has begun in Minsk.


    Italy's La Repubblica newspaper reports that President Putin told the president of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, that: "If I want to, I can take Kiev in two weeks". Mr Putin made the remark when Mr Barroso asked him about Russian military incursions in Ukraine, the paper reports.

    D Doyle, Bath

    emails: This situation in Ukraine is getting very scary. The sabre rattling from American senators and Putin reminding the West that he has nuclear weapons. Fortunately so do the West as he is well aware. Perhaps Nato should remind him. I wonder, will the West sacrifice Eastern Ukraine for the sake of peace? And does appeasement ever really work? On the other hand I am not sure we have any other option.

    Sophia, Oxford

    emails: Ukraine cannot do this by themselves. They need help from EU, Britain, the US and Nato. It has been obvious from day one that Russia has been helping the rebels. It is time to do something. Sanctions are not working, as Putin is determined to get what he wants no matter what the cost.


    The effects of the conflict can be seen in many parts of eastern Ukraine; here the burnt-out remains of an armoured personnel carrier near an abandoned checkpoint south of Donetsk:

    The wreckage of an Armoured Personnel Carrier is seen at an abandoned checkpoint in Olenivka

    In the Crimean peninsula, which was taken over by Russia in March, Russian-backed bailiffs have seized a luxury seaside hotel complex linked to one of Ukraine's richest businessmen, Ihor Kolomoisky. Crimean prosecutors suspect Mr Kolomoisky of financing "terrorism", Russian media reports say.

    Nato Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen speaks during a news conference at the Residence Palace in Brussels, 1 September 2014

    In his speech earlier, Nato Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen announced a Readiness Action Plan in response to Russia's "aggressive behaviour", meaning a more visible Nato presence in Eastern Europe.


    While the crisis rages in Ukraine, Russia is taking steps to lessen dependence on Western consumers for its gas. On Monday Russia and China began construction of a new gas pipeline linking the two countries.


    Ukrainian authorities have published footage apparently showing one of the two coastguard boats which were reported attacked yesterday:

    Footage from Ukrainian authorities showing a coastguard boat which was reportedly attacked on Sunday

    UK Prime Minister David Cameron has said that the presence of Russia troops on Ukrainian soil is "unjustified" and "unacceptable". He went on to warn Russia that its relations with the rest of the world would be "radically different" if it continued with its current policy.


    Ukraine's Defence Minister Valeriy Geletey warned on Monday that a "great war" had broken out with Russia over his country's future, "the likes of which Europe has not seen since World War II", and that it could claim tens of thousands of lives, according to a post on the minister's Facebook page.


    Russian media report that the separatists' representatives at talks in Minsk have said they would accept staying within Ukraine if "special status" were given to their self-proclaimed republics. If confirmed, this would be a shift from their previous insistence on independence for the regions.


    The Interfax-West news agency has quoted one of the separatists' representatives as saying that the talks in Minsk have ended and will restart on 5 September, BBC Monitoring reports.


    Cadets at a school in Kiev release balloons to mark the first day of Ukraine's academic year.

    Ukrainian boys from cadet's lyceum release balloons during a first day of school in Kiev, Ukraine, on 1 September 2014

    That brings us to the end of our live coverage of events surrounding the crisis in Ukraine. For further up-to-date coverage on the story you can continue to check the BBC News website.


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