On Friday, over 200 Russian trucks crossed the border into Ukraine after the long-stalled aid convoy proceeded into the country without any Red Cross escorts. Such actions sparked criticism and drew angry accusations from Moscow. Ukraine suggested that Moscow has broken its word concerning the convoy. A senior Ukrainian security official went so far as to call Russia’s actions a “direct invasion”.
Unrelatedly, according to a statement from NATO officials on Friday, Russian military has been busy moving artillery units manned by Russian personnel into Ukraine during the past couple of days. These artillery units have already been used to fire at Ukrainian forces.
For the first time since the conflict between the Ukrainian government and the pro-Russian separatists began, there is evidence proving a direct involvement on Russia’s part in supporting separatist forces.
After hearing about the convoy entering Ukraine, Rear Admiral John Kirby called for an immediate withdrawal of the trucks from Ukrainian territory, condemning the convoy and declaring it an unauthorized entry into Ukraine.
Although in the Past, Ukraine promised to use any forces available to halt Russian vehicles from crossing the frontier without the government’s accord, President Petro Poroshenko assured the visiting foreign minister of Lithuania that Ukraine would make sure that the convoy wouldn’t lead to any serious consequences. Such an attitude from the Ukrainian president who, on Saturday, will be hosting German chancellor Angela Merkel, suggests that Ukraine would limit itself concerning the Russian vehicles and would not use force.
President Poroshenko and his Russian counterpart, President Putin are scheduled to meet in Belarus next Tuesday, together with several other European Union officials, to address the tensions between the two countries.
Russia’s explanation for the advancement of the convoy was simple: according to the Russian Ministry of Foreign affairs, Kiev had been stalling the delivery of aid to people that are living in areas of humanitarian catastrophes. According to Russian news agencies, President Putin had been informed about the advances of the aid convoy. The Ministry stated that the Russian side simply made the decision to act and that the cargo would be moving toward Luhansk.
But aside from the aid convoys which, if nothing else, prove that Russia would simply act at will even in foreign territories, other Russian military forces have been concentrating into Ukraine. Such movements of artillery represent significant escalations of Kremlin’s involvement in the Ukrainian conflict and according to Oana Lungescu, NATO spokeswoman, Russian artillery support is being concentrated and employed against Ukrainian armed forces.