Pro-Russia rebels in Ukraine should open a humanitarian corridor for surrounded Ukrainian troops to retreat from the battlefield, the Russian President's office said Friday.
The step comes a day after a U.S. official accused Russia of sending up to 1,000 of its soldiers into southern Ukraine to fight alongside the rebels.
NATO produced what it says are satellite images showing Russian troops engaged in military operations inside Ukraine.
NATO has called an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels, Belgium, at the request of the Ukrainian authorities, a day after the U.N. Security Council was summoned over the crisis.
Russia continues to deny that it is either supporting the rebel forces or has sent its own forces over the border.
Ukrainian troops were fighting on two fronts Thursday: southeast of rebel-held Donetsk, and along the nation's southern coast in the town of Novoazovsk, about 12 miles (20 kilometers) from the Russian border.
Mykhailo Lysenko, the deputy commander of the Ukrainian Donbas battalion, on Thursday described the fighting in the south as "a full-scale invasion."
Analysts suggest that Russia may have sent its forces into Novoazovsk in order to throw Ukrainian forces making gains against besieged rebel forces in the cities of Donetsk and Luhansk onto the back foot.
In a statement issued by the Kremlin, President Vladimir Putin said the rebels had been successful in halting a Ukrainian military operation in eastern Ukraine that he said had endangered the civilian population and caused many casualties.
As a result, he said, they should allow the Ukrainian soldiers - who he said were fulfilling orders, not volunteering - to leave the battlefield, to reunite with their families, get medical help for the injured and avoid more casualties.
The Prime Minister of the self-declared Donetsk People's Republic, Alexander Zakharchenko, said in a televised statement on Russia's state-run Russia 24 channel that the rebels would do so if the surrounded Ukrainian troops agree to hand over their weapons.
Separatist forces in eastern Ukraine, backed by Russian tanks and armored personnel carriers, battled government forces on two fronts Thursday, a Ukrainian military official said.
The fighting was taking place southeast of Donetsk, and along the nation's southern coast in the town of Novoazovsk, about 12 miles (20 km) from the Russian border, according to Mykhailo Lysenko, the deputy commander of the Ukrainian Donbas battalion.
"This is a full-scale invasion," Lysenko said, referring to the fighting in the south.
A day earlier, Ukraine's National Defense and Security Council told reporters that Russian forces were directing massive artillery fire over the border at Novoazovsk.
Russian forces and pro-Russia rebels have seized villages around the town, the NSDC said.
The NDSC also claimed that members of a Russian tactical battalion were present in the village of Pobeda, in Ukraine's Luhansk region.
"If these troops got lost and accidentally found themselves in Ukraine as well, they should go back East," the update said.
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Ukrainian border guards are in Russia and have started to examine the contents of a huge convoy of trucks that Moscow says is carrying relief goods for civilians in war-torn eastern Ukraine, a border guard official said Friday.
The purpose of the procession of trucks, which abruptly changed course earlier this week, has been the subject of dispute between Russia and Ukraine.
The Ukrainian government has expressed fears that the mission is a camouflaged effort to smuggle supplies to pro-Russian rebels and has vowed to keep the convoy out.
Russia insists that it should be permitted to send aid to the conflict-battered region, many of whose residents are Russian speakers.
The Ukrainian government, whose forces have been fighting the pro-Russian rebel groups for months, has said any aid needs its approval and has to go through the Red Cross or the United Nations.
Serhay Astahov, a spokesman for the the Ukrainian border guard service, told CNN on Friday that border guards had started inspecting the trucks at a checkpoint on the Russian side of the border from Ukraine's Luhansk region.
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Russian criminals have stolen 1.2 billion Internet user names and passwords, amassing what could be the largest collection of stolen digital credentials in history, a respected security firm said Tuesday.
The news was first reported by The New York Times, which cited research from Milwaukee-based Hold Security. The firm didn't reveal the identities of the targeted websites, citing nondisclosure agreements and a desire to prevent existing vulnerabilities from being more widely exploited.
Hold Security founder Alex Holden told CNNMoney that the trove includes credentials gathered from over 420,000 websites - both smaller sites as well as "household names." The criminals didn't breach any major email providers, he said.
Holden said the gang makes its money by sending out spam for bogus products like weight-loss pills, and had apparently amassed its collection of digital credentials for that relatively innocuous purpose.
"It's really not that impactful to the individuals, and that's why they were under the radar for so long," Holden said. "They've ignored financial information almost completely."
But Holden said the gang's success at amassing passwords demonstrates that weak security procedures are common on websites of all sizes.
We'll have the latest information for you on "Early Start" at 5am ET.
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A Malaysia Airlines passenger jet crashed in a rebel-controlled part of eastern Ukraine on Thursday, spurring swift accusations from Ukrainian officials that "terrorists" shot down the aircraft.
The United States has concluded a missile shot down the plane, but hasn't pinpointed who was responsible, a senior U.S. official told CNN's Barbara Starr.
The Boeing 777 with 298 people aboard fell from the sky near the town of Torez in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine, officials said. A top Ukrainian official said the plane, which was on the way from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, was flying at about 10,000 meters (nearly 33,000 feet) when the missile hit.
A radar system saw a surface-to-air missile system turn on and track an aircraft right before the plane went down, the senior U.S. official said. A second system saw a heat signature at the time the airliner was hit, the official said. The United States is analyzing the trajectory of the missile to try to learn where the attack came from, the official said.
The Obama administration believes Ukraine did not have the capability in the region - let alone the motivation - to shoot down the plane, a U.S. official told CNN's Jake Tapper.
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said the plane never made a distress call.
He called for an international team to have full access to the crash site.
"We must and we will find out precisely what happened to this flight. No stone will be left unturned," he said.
"If it transpires that the plane was indeed shot down, we insist that the perpetrators must swiftly be brought to justice," Najib said.
Ukrainian officials maintained that pro-Russian separatists were behind the crash.
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Russia is expected to face new sanctions Monday for its actions in Ukraine, President Barack Obama told reporters in Manila, Philippines.
"The sanctions build on the ones that were already in place. We're moving forward with expanded list of individuals," he said.
The move, Obama said, was to spur Russian President Vladmir Putin to "walk the walk not just talk to talk" in resolving the crisis in Ukraine.
If the latest round of sanctions don't work, the next phase could target sectors like banking, Obama said.
The European Union also is expected to impose sanctions Monday on about 15 Russian officials who are believed to be undermining democracy and creating chaos in Ukraine, according to Western diplomats.
The sanctions will include asset freezes and travel bans.
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Russia does not want to take over Ukraine's Crimea region, President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday, but he showed no signs of backing down on Russia's presence in the region despite Western pressure.
Putin labeled what had happened in Ukraine an "anti-constitutional coup and armed seizure of power," and he insisted that ousted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych is the legitimate leader of the nation.
He called the parliament in Ukraine "partly legitimate" but said the country's acting President is not.
At the same time, he said he saw no political future for Yanukovych, who resurfaced in Russia on Friday after fleeing Kiev 10 days ago.
Appearing at ease as he addressed a handful of reporters in Moscow, Putin said only the people of Crimea, a Russian-dominated autonomous region, could determine their future.
Putin said that there was no need for the use of the military so far, with not a shot fired, and that any use of military force would be the last resort.
But if Russian-speaking citizens in the east of Ukraine ask for Russia's help, Russia has the right "to take all measures to protect the rights of those people," he said. He repeatedly cast any such intervention as a humanitarian mission.
Military action, he said, would be "completely legitimate" because it was at the request of Yanukovych and in line with Russia's duty to protect people with historic ties to Russia, both cultural and economic.
"Firstly, we have a request of the legitimate President Yanukovych to protect the welfare of the local population. We have neo-Nazis and Nazis and anti-Semites in parts of Ukraine, including Kiev," Putin said.
Russian forces have not fired a shot since they crossed into Crimea, he said.
Putin pointed out what he sees as a double standard by leaders in the United States and other Western countries, saying that the U.S. acted in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya without a U.N. resolution authorizing that action or by "twisting" U.N. resolutions.
And he warned that any damage from sanctions imposed by the West against Russia over its actions in Ukraine would be multilateral.
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NSA leaker Edward Snowden is asking you to trust him. He says there is zero chance Russia or China has any of his top-secret files. Of course he is presently in Russian and wanted in the US on espionage. Can you take him at his word?
WATCH ABOVE VIDEO AND RESPOND BELOW.
He says he hopes his "friends" in Syria bring their chemical weapons under control and also "have them destroyed" but Vladmir Putin's role as the last, best hope for diplomacy in this crisis isn't winning believers in Washington. CNN's Brian Todd reports.
Sen. John Cornyn, a Texas Republican on the Armed Services Committee says, "the Russians are part of the problem in Syria. They are not credibly part of the solution."
This skepticism builds as President Putin writes an open letter in the New York Times saying it is not the Syrian government that should be blamed for the use of chemical weapons in the country. He writes:
"There is every reason to believe it was used not by the Syrian Army, but by opposition forces, to provoke intervention by their powerful foreign patrons."
France says the United Nations will probably publish its report on the August chemical attack on Monday. The country says there will be indications in the report the Assad regime was behind the attack.
Senators Cornyn, John McCain and others have been ticking through laundry lists of why they believe Putin won't follow through on getting the Syrians to give up their alleged chemical weapons.
They cite planeloads of Russian weapons sent to the Syrian regime for hefty profits, nearly $1 billion worth in 2011 alone.
There's also a Russian naval base in Syria.
Julia Ioffe, senior editor at the New Republic, spent three years as a journalist in Russia. She says Putin views his role in the world "to be a counterweight to America."
Though Senator Diane Feinstein and others believe Putin does want to reach a deal to end this crisis and that he doesn't want Syria to have chemical weapons.
Ioffe says Putin wants to be the cause of attention and show President Obama that he has the ability to end this issue peacefully.
The reporter notes the Russian president wants "to be center stage, to be somebody that you reckon with, somebody that you have to come to and seek his approval and you have to come and kiss his ring."
A U.S. response to Syria is imminent after clear word from the Obama Administration insisting the Assad regime is to blame for a deadly chemical weapons attack near Damsacus, which rebels say left some 1300 people dead.
Plans are apparently in the works for a U.S. response, but the White House says nothing has yet been decided.
CNN has learned the National Security Council met Tuesday night at the White House, to discuss Syria. The president did not take part.
Meanwhile, Russia is warning the U.S. against an attack.
Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin tweeted Tuesday: "The West handles the Islamic world the way a monkey handles a grenade."
“There's no love affair between Russian president Vladimir Putin and Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, but their countries have been in a tight embrace since Soviet times,” reports CNN’s Jill Dougherty.
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem has said, “The Russian-Syrian relationship is a historical relationship that goes back decades back and is still continuing in the same momentum till this day.”
From military ties to those of blood and religion, the Russians and Syrians have a clear vested interest in one other.
“Syria has been buying its military weapons from Russia since Assad's father, Hafez al-Assad, ruled the country and Moscow is still fulfilling some of those Soviet-era contracts,” Dougherty reports.
Also, Russia's naval facility in Syria's port of Tartus is Moscow's only remaining Mediterranean repair spot for its ships.
According to Russian media, at least 25,000 Russian women are married to Syrian men.
And the largest Christian denomination in both Syria and Russia is the Orthodox Church. Moscow fears that if Islamist rebels win, they will be decimated.
“But the deepest reason the Kremlin sticks with Assad is Russia's anger over any unilateral military action or regime change by the West,” Dougherty explains.
“It started with NATO's 1999 air campaign against Russia's ally, Serbia.”
Matters worsened when the west launched airstrikes against Libya's Muammar Gadhafi, in 2011.
Andrew Kuchins of the Center for Strategic and International Studies says, “Mr. Putin basically came to the conclusion that never again, this will never happen again. That they will stick by Mr. Assad and Syria. Not because they particularly like Mr. Assad but because they see him as the legitimate president, or the legitimate leader of Syria.”
Dougherty says, “Russia now claims there's little difference between President Obama and President George W. Bush. And they predict that if Assad falls what comes after him could be even worse.”