Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, speaking on Thursday after the army lost a key town to separatists, said the situation in the conflict zone in the east was "extraordinarily difficult ... but controllable", Interfax news agency reported. Poroshenko, who was speaking at a meeting of top security chiefs after the town of Novoazovsk fell to Russian-backed separatists, said Russian troops had come "to the rescue" of the rebels after Kiev's earlier military successes. The loss of Novoazovsk, Ukraine's most southeasterly point, after a two-day assault by Russian-backed separatists in an armoured column, is a blow to government forces since it leaves vulnerable the big port city of Mariupol, further west along the coast.
Ambassadors from the 28 NATO countries and Ukraine will hold an emergency meeting on Friday to discuss the situation in Ukraine, a NATO official said on Thursday. The meeting is being held at Ukraine's request and comes after Ukraine accused Russia of bringing troops into the southeast of the country in support of pro-Moscow separatist rebels. Ukraine is not a NATO member but meets regularly with NATO in a body called the NATO-Ukraine Commission.