Ukraine Russia
Ukrainian servicemen ride atop an armoured personnel carrier (APC) as they patrol an area near DonetskReuters

Russian President Vladimir Putin has revealed that Russia is to send an aid convoy of 280 trucks to eastern Ukraine despite the West's warnings that this may be used as a pretext for an invasion.

The Kremlin issued a statement acknowledging that aid would be sent to the majority Russian-speaking areas of eastern Ukraine.

"It was noted that the Russian side, in collaboration with representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross, is sending an aid convoy to Ukraine," the Kremlin statement said.

However, a spokesman for the International Committee of the Red Cross mission in Ukraine, Andre Loersch, said that the organisation had "no information about the content" of the aid trucks and did not know where they were planning to travel.

"At this stage we have no agreement on this, and it looks like the initiative of the Russian Federation," he said.

Ukraine has reported that Russia has amassed 45,000 troops on its border while military alliance Nato said there was a "high probability" that Moscow would intervene in the country's east.

The European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso delivered a strong warning to Putin over any possible incursion into eastern Ukraine.

"President Barroso warned against any unilateral military actions in Ukraine, under any pretext, including humanitarian," the European Commission said in a statement.

The move by Russia comes after Ukrainian government forces confirmed they were preparing for the "final stage" of recapturing the city of Donetsk, currently held by pro-Russian separatists.

UN agencies estimate that more than 1,100 people have been killed in the fighting between the pro-Russian rebels and the Ukrainian military since April.

The downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, suspected of being shot down by the rebels killing 298 passengers and crew, has again put the spotlight on the ex-Soviet state and Moscow's relationship with the separatists in eastern Ukraine.