NATO chief says a few thousand more Russian troops are now at Ukraine's border (LIVE BLOG)



A pro-Russian rebel stands guard outside a local branch of the National Bank of Ukraine after seizing the building in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine, on June 16, 2014.




UPDATE: 6/19/14 4:45 PM ET

Signing off

This live blog is now closed.

UPDATE: 6/19/14 03:00 PM ET

Hollande and Merkel urge Putin to resume gas talks with Kyiv

Agence France-Presse — The leaders of France and Germany on Thursday urged Russian President Vladimir Putin to resume negotiations with Kyiv on gas supplies to Ukraine, the French presidency said in a statement.

In a three-way phone call with Putin, French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel also "underlined the importance of securing a rapid end to the fighting in the east of Ukraine, so as to stabilize the security situation and create the conditions for a genuine de-escalation" of the crisis, the statement said.

UPDATE: 6/19/14 1:40 PM ET

KyivPost reports an explosion in Donetsk

Meanwhile, battle-ravaged Donetsk is suffering from immense water shortages. Agence France-Presse has the story:

Up to one million people face water shortages in eastern Ukraine as workers battle to repair pipes damaged by fighting in rebel-held Donetsk, a city spokesman said on Thursday.

"Today the water supply is limited and a full supply is being provided only at certain times," Maxim Rovinsky, spokesman for Donetsk mayor Oleksandr Lukyanchenko, told AFP.

The city is the largest rebel stronghold in eastern Ukraine and the epicenter of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic.

Rovinsky said water would reach residents in five-hour stretches every morning and evening, in restrictions that went into force on Tuesday.

The region is suffering from severe water shortages after weeks of fierce fighting between pro-Russian rebels and Ukrainian troops damaged vital infrastructure.

There has been no water supply to the battle-ravaged northern city of Slovyansk — which has a population of 120,000 — since the start of the month. Many other towns have had their supply restricted.

"As of today the water supply to Donetsk is down 20 percent," Rovinsky said.

Read the full story here

UPDATE: 6/19/14 10:30 AM ET

OSCE says it has re-established contact with missing observers in Ukraine

Reuters — The OSCE has re-established contact with two teams of observers that went missing in eastern Ukraine last month, a spokesman for the democracy watchdog said on Thursday, adding that its monitors were unharmed.

"We now have contact with both teams," a spokesman for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said, adding the contacts had been re-established in the past 48 hours.

"We know that the first ones, the ones that were taken longer ago are alive and unharmed," the spokesman said. Asked about the second group, the spokesman said: "They are fine as well."

UPDATE: 6/19/14 10:20 AM ET

Ukrainian President Poroshenko confirms he'll sign EU agreement on June 27

Reuters — Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said on Thursday he would sign an association agreement with the European Union on June 27 and would also send his new foreign minister to Luxembourg next week to lay out a peace plan for the east to EU ministers.

Poroshenko made his comments after presenting Pavlo Klimkin, who was earlier endorsed as foreign minister by parliament, to the media. Klimkin commented: "Our priorities are obvious – they are a peace plan (for eastern Ukraine) and association with the EU."

Referring to plans to sign the association agreement, Poroshenko said: "That for which we have waited for so long will take place next week."

UPDATE: 6/19/14 9:25 AM ET

NATO chief says a few thousand more Russian troops are at Ukraine's border

Reuters — NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said on Thursday that at least a few thousand more Russian troops were now at Ukraine's eastern border, a build-up he called a regrettable step backwards.

"We now see a new Russian military build-up around the Ukrainian border. At least a few thousand more Russian troops are now deployed," Rasmussen said in London. "I consider this a very regrettable step backwards. It seems Russia keeps the option open to intervene further in Ukraine," he said.

"The international community would have to respond in a firm manner if Russia were to intervene further in Ukraine."

He added: "That would imply deeper ... economic sanctions against Russia which would have a very damaging effect on the Russian economy."

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