EU's Barroso warns Ukraine crisis near 'point of no return'

AFP
Armed pro-Russia separatists stand guard near the train station on July 21, 2014 as intense shelling rocked the area, in the rebel stronghold of Donetsk in eastern Ukraine
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Armed pro-Russia separatists stand guard near the train station on July 21, 2014 as intense shelling rocked the area, in the rebel stronghold of Donetsk in eastern Ukraine (AFP Photo/Dominique Faget)

Brussels (AFP) - EU Commission head Jose Manual Barroso warned on Saturday that the crisis in Ukraine was reaching the point of no return, after reports Russian troops were fighting in the east of the country.

"We are in a very serious, I would say, dramatic situation... where we can reach the point of no return," Barroso said after talks in Brussels with Ukranian President Petro Poroshenko.

"If the escalation of the conflict continues, this point can come," he told reporters, describing reports of Russian troops in Ukraine as a representing "a new trangression".

At the same time, Barroso said it was both imperative and not too late to find a political solution to the conflict which has cost more than 2,500 lives since April.

EU leaders meet later Saturday when they are expected to agree on tougher sanctions against Russia after NATO charged that Moscow now had 1,000 troops fighting in support of rebel forces in southeastern Ukraine and had shipped in large amounts of heavy weaponry.

Poroshenko said his meetings in Brussels were an important demonstration of Europe's solidarity with his country, which was now "the subject for foreign military aggression and terror... (with) thousands of foreign troops and tanks now on Ukraine territory".

The crisis posed a "very high risk" to Ukraine and European stability, he told reporters, but said there could be no military solution to the conflict.

"The most important thing now is peace," he said, adding that he was hopeful that there could still be progress with Russian President Vladimir Putin, whom he met in Minsk on Tuesday.

The stakes, however, were very high, he said.

"Today we are talking about the fate of Ukraine, tomorrow it could be for all Europe."

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