MOSCOW: Russia on Monday warned that towns in eastern Ukraine encircled by Ukrainian troops were facing a humanitarian disaster due to shortages of medicines and food.
"A humanitarian disaster is brewing in the encircled towns -- there is already a lack of medicines and there are starting to be disruptions of food supplies," the Russian foreign ministry said in a statement.
Kiev last week launched an anti-terrorist operation in Ukraine's Russian-speaking east after pro-Russian rebels took over government offices and police stations.
Ukrainian troops on Monday were fighting heavily armed rebels in the town of Slavyansk and had raided checkpoints in the nearby town of Kramatorsk as part of a military operation to flush out insurgents who are holding more than a dozen towns.
The Russian foreign ministry said Ukraine was carrying out a "criminal operation" using "punitive methods" to target peaceful civilians and accused it of unleashing "terror against its own people."
Moscow urged Kiev to sit down at the negotiating table and "start a normal dialogue."