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Updated: Sat, 30 Aug 2014 18:56:51 GMT | By The Associated Press, cbc.ca

Ukraine and Russia 'very close' to war, President Petro Poroshenko says



Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko addresses the media at the European Commission headquarters in Brussels on Saturday, Aug. 30, 2014. At a summit on Saturday EU leaders will discuss who will get the job as the 28-nation bloc's foreign policy chief for the next 5 years and the situation in Ukraine. (© AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert)

Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko addresses the media at the European Commission headquarters in Brussels on Saturday, Aug. 30, 2014. At a summit on Saturday EU leaders will discuss who will get the job as the 28-nation bloc's foreign policy chief for the next 5 years and the situation in Ukraine. (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert) Geert Vanden Wijngaert/Associated Press

"I think we are very close to the point of no return. The point of no return is full-scale war, which already happened in the territory controlled by separatists and where — instead of separatists — there are regular Russian troops," Poroshenko said in English.

"Any offensive action, which would be undertaken, if it happened, would be the point of no return."

The European Union on Saturday was poised to impose new sanctions against Russia as Ukraine's president warned the conflict with Moscow threatens peace and stability for Europe as a whole.

The EU is giving Russia one week to scale back its Ukrainian intervention or face sanctions, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said.

EU officials will draw up proposals for new sanctions within a week, European Council President Herman Van Rompuy said on Sunday, according to Reuters.

Poroshenko alleged that scores of Russian military personnel have crossed into his country.

"Thousands of the foreign troops and hundreds of the foreign tanks are now on the territory of Ukraine," Poroshenko told reporters.

On the ground, fighting continued. The office of the Donetsk mayor reported in a statement on Saturday that at least two people died in an artillery attack on one of Donetsk's neighbourhoods. Shelling was reported elsewhere in the city, but there was no immediate word on casualties.

Russia's 'war against Europe'

Lithuanian leader Dalia Grybauskaite added Russia's stance on Ukraine, which seeks closer ties with the EU, amounts to a direct confrontation that requires stronger sanctions.

"Russia is practically in the war against Europe," she said in English.

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said "sanctions are not an end in themselves," but a means to dissuade Russia from further destabilizing Ukraine.

"Russia should not underestimate the European Union's will and resolve to stand by its principles and values," he told reporters, adding that the escalation seen over the past week can't go unpunished.

"The opening of new fronts and the use of Russian regular forces [on Ukrainian soil] is not acceptable and represents a grave transgression," Barroso added.

On Saturday, U.S. President Barack Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper talked by telephone to discuss next week's NATO summit in Wales and the situation in Ukraine and Iraq, according to the PMO

"Both leaders agreed on the importance of ensuring Alliance unity on measures to strengthen NATO's readiness and responsiveness to the full range of current and future threats," the White House said in a release.

Rebels gaining ground

NATO estimates that at least 1,000 Russian soldiers are in Ukraine, while Russia denies any military involvement in the fighting that has so far claimed 2,600 lives, according to UN figures.

Russia's EU ambassador repeated those denials Saturday, telling the BBC that "NATO has never produced a single piece of evidence" of Russian troops operating in Ukraine. He said the only active duty Russian soldiers in Ukraine were the 10 captured this week, who Moscow insists had mistakenly wandered across the border.

Meanwhile, on the ground, Ukraine said Saturday that it was abandoning a city where its forces have been surrounded by rebels for days, conceding territory in face of a reinvigorated rebel offensive. Government forces were also pulling back from another city they had claimed to have taken control of two weeks earlier.

The moves indicate that Ukrainian forces face increasingly strong resistance from Russian-backed separatist rebels just weeks after racking up significant gains and forcing rebels out of much of the territory they had held.

Separately, Ukrainian forces said one of their Su-25 fighter jets was shot down Friday over eastern Ukraine by a missile from a Russian missile launcher. The pilot ejected and was uninjured, the military said in a brief statement.

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