Any bid by Russia to deliver humanitarian aid into Ukraine would be viewed as an invasion, the United States said on Friday, warning that Moscow voiced similar concerns for civilians before its brief 2008 war with Georgia.
Russia has offered to send a convoy of aid across the border for displaced civilians. The offer came at an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council that Russia called on Tuesday on the humanitarian situation in Ukraine, where a pro-Russian uprising threatens to break up the former Soviet republic of 46 million people.
"Given that Ukraine has allowed international humanitarian groups to deliver aid within its territory, there is no logical reason why Russia should seek to deliver it," US Ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, told a Security Council meeting on Ukraine on Friday.
"Therefore, any further unilateral intervention by Russia into Ukrainian territory, including one under the guise of providing humanitarian aid, would be completely unacceptable and deeply alarming. And it would be viewed as an invasion of Ukraine," Power told the 15-member body.
Kiev and Western allies have accused Moscow of fueling the fighting. Russia has denied orchestrating the unrest and said Ukraine's use of force in a bid to end the unrest has made the situation worse.
NATO has warned of a possible invasion by Russia, saying Moscow has massed 20,000 troops on the Ukraine border. Moscow has denied it has any plan to send troops across the border.
Russian UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin on Tuesday described the humanitarian situation in eastern Ukraine as "disastrous."
"We would like to send a convoy with Russian humanitarian assistance with the accompaniment of the ICRC (International Committee of the Red Cross)," Churkin said. "We stand ready to act with optimal transparency, let the international community monitor the convoys, transport routes and distribution of aid."
He said Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov had written on Monday to UN humanitarian agencies, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe and the ICRC to request such a humanitarian mission in Ukraine.
Power said on Friday that Russia had voiced similar concern for civilians in Georgia in 2008 before its five day war with the former Soviet republic.
"Similar words have presaged military action," she said.
"The onus is on this council and the entire international community to meet legitimate humanitarian needs and do so urgently, but in so doing, to make sure that history does not repeat itself," Power said.
On Tuesday, senior UN aid official John Ging told the council that the humanitarian situation was steadily worsening and that some 117,000 people were displaced in Ukraine, while Russia said more than 740,000 people had fled across its border.
On Friday, UN Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, Ivan Simonovic, told the council that armed groups controlled areas with a "reign of fear and terror."
"At least 50 people are being killed or wounded every day," he said. "The price being paid by all Ukrainians as a result of the conflict is too high."