Kiev said Tuesday that a convoy of 280 Russian trucks reportedly carrying humanitarian aid would not be allowed to enter its territory after Western countries warned that Moscow could use it as “cover” for an invasion.
Ukrainian authorities have made it clear that they would not let the mission in before the international Red Cross establishes the region’s needs in a week’s time.
Ukraine’s deputy head of the Presidential administration, Valery Chaly, said Tuesday that the Russian cargo should be delivered to the border, and then transferred by the Red Cross onto other vehicles.
Kiev and its Western allies have long been worried that Moscow could launch a cross-border invasion to head off a rebel defeat in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk. US intelligence reports said that Russia has been steadily building up its military forces in the area, which include several armored vehicles bearing the Cyrillic insignia for "peacekeeping”.
Their concern was echoed by French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, who said on Tuesday that the aid convoy may be a “cover” for Moscow to install a permanent presence in rebel-held territories in eastern Ukraine.
Russian authorities earlier stressed that the aid delivery was being coordinated with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), with Kiev’s consent.
"It has all been agreed with Ukraine," Business FM radio quoted President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, as saying.
Aid delivery without armed escort
However, the ICRC said it had no information on what the trucks were carrying or where they were going.
Russia’s Itar Tass news agency said the convoy has departed from near Moscow which means it would take it a couple of days to arrive in east Ukraine, some 1,000 km (620 miles) to the southwest.
Russia’s NTV television showed hundreds of white trucks gathered at a depot outside Moscow, and said they were carrying everything from baby food to sleeping bags. A Russian Orthodox priest sprinkled holy water on the trucks, some of which bore a red cross, before their departure.
Thousands of people are believed to be short of water, electricity and medical aid due to the fighting. US President Barack Obama said that any Russian intervention without Kiev’s consent would be unacceptable and violate international law.
According to UN agencies, more than 1,100 people have been killed including government forces, rebels and civilians in the four months since the separatists seized territory in the east and Kiev launched its crackdown.
(FRANCE 24 with AP and REUTERS)
Date created : 2014-08-12