As the situation in eastern Ukraine grows increasingly dangerous for civilians, Russia has sent a convoy of about 280 trucks toward the country’s border, a move coming amid international debate on Russia’s intentions within Ukraine’s borders.
Though the trucks bearing a reported 2,000 tons of humanitarian aid were finally allowed to leave for Ukraine today under the guidance of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Ukraine isn't taking any chances with the humanitarian mission, and will intercept the convoy at the border. Ukrainian presidential aide Valery Chaly today said that the cargo will be reloaded onto separate transport vehicles at the border by the Red Cross.
"We will not allow any escort by the emergencies ministry of Russia or by the military [onto Ukrainian territory]. Everything will be under the control of the Ukrainian side," he said. The ICRC did not immediately return requests by VICE News for comment.
Ukraine's caution may not be unwarranted, says Janine Davidson, senior fellow for defense policy at the Council on Foreign Relations.
"Putin has already demonstrated — in Crimea and east Ukraine — that he will camouflage his high end special ops-like fighters, and leverage deniability, so they can change facts on the ground," Davidson told VICE News.
Russia’s announcement last week that it would bring supplies and humanitarian aid into Ukraine was met with concern, with some Ukrainian and Western leaders fearing a "Trojan horse" situation.
NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen also warned that there was a “high probability” of an attack by Russian forces in Ukraine, while European Union President José Manuel Barroso “called for the respect of international humanitarian law” and warned "against any unilateral military actions in Ukraine, under any pretext, including humanitarian,” according to a statement.
Russia sent a “humanitarian” convoy of over 200 trucks from Moscow to the southeast of Ukraine on August 12.
The supplies include medicine and medical equipment, foodstuffs including sugar and grains, and generators, according to Russian news agency Itar-Tass.
The delivery comes two days after pro-Russia rebels in Donetsk called for aid, referring to the civilian situation as a “humanitarian catastrophe.”
The situation in the eastern city of Luhansk is similarly dire, with the head of ICRC’s Europe and Central Asia operations Laurent Corbaz announcing that "it is urgent that aid reaches people in Luhansk and in other areas in the eastern part of the country, which have sustained heavy fighting over the past weeks.”
As of July 15, at least 1,000 civilians and military members have died since fighting began in mid-April, according to a report from the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. About 300,000 have fled the city of Donetsk, and 200,000 have fled Luhansk.
On Friday three civilians were killed and 10 were injured by government shelling in Donetsk.
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