At a news conference in Brussels with Petro Poroshenko, the Ukrainian president, Barroso, who said on Friday he had spoken to Russian President Vladimir Putin on the phone to condemn significant incursions by Russian forces into Ukraine, said the situation was getting close to the point of no return.
Barroso made it clear the EU would take a twin track approach, which would entail threatening stronger sanctions against Russia while keeping the door to negotiations open. He stressed that the EU was running out of patience and that Russia was adopting a very high risk strategy. Poroshenko, who on Wednesday cancelled a trip to Turkey amid reports that Russian forces were on Ukrainian soil, said a strong EU response was needed because his country is subject to "military aggression and terror".
"Thousand(s) of the foreign troops and hundreds of the foreign tanks are now on the territory of Ukraine," Poroshenko told reporters, speaking in English.
"There is a very high risk not only for peace and stability for Ukraine but for the whole peace and stability of Europe."
NATO estimates that at least 1,000 Russian soldiers are in Ukraine even though Russia denies any military involvement in the fighting that has so far claimed 2,600 lives, according to UN figures. As pro-Russia separatist rebels continue to fight for independence in the eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, Ukraine said Saturday that it was abandoning a city where its forces have been surrounded by rebels for days. It was also pulling back from another it had claimed to have taken control of two weeks earlier.
Colonel Andriy Lysenko, a spokesman for Ukraine's national security council, said regular units of the military had been ordered to retreat from Novosvitlivka and Khryashchuvate, two towns on the main road between the Russian border and Luhansk, the second-largest rebel-held city.
Ukraine had claimed control of Novosvitlivka earlier in August.
The statements by Lysenko indicate that Ukrainian forces were facing increasingly strong resistance from Russian-backed separatist rebels just weeks after racking up significant gains and forcing rebels out of much of the territory they had held, the Associated Press news agency reported.