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Russia convoy returns as Merkel holds crisis talks in Kiev

Published on Aug 23, 2014 7:59 PM
A lorry, part of a Russian humanitarian aid convoy, waits to cross the border at the Donetsk-Izvarino border checkpoint, near the town of Donetsk in the Rostov region, on Aug 23, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP

KIEV (AFP) - Russia's controversial aid convoy to war-torn eastern Ukraine returned across the border on Saturday, as German Chancellor Angela Merkel held crisis talks in Kiev with the country's pro-Western leaders.

The visit by Ms Merkel - the most influential Western leader to call on Kiev since the start of the crisis in the ex-Soviet state - comes ahead of a crunch meeting between the presidents of Ukraine and Russia next week.

Tensions soared to a new high on Friday after the Kremlin unilaterally sent what it said was an aid convoy across the border to the insurgent stronghold of Lugansk in a move Kiev branded an "invasion".

The West rebuked Russia over the convoy, with Washington warning Moscow it could face further sanctions while the UN Security Council voiced concerns it could escalate the four-month conflict.

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