According to Russian media, a convoy of 280 trucks carrying humanitarian aid has left towards the destroyed eastern Ukraine. The aid mission is reportedly being carried out in cooperation with the International Committee of the Red Cross.
Despite the fact that about 45,000 Russian troops had gathered at the Ukraine border, Russia’s President, Vladimir Putin, insisted to involve Western agencies in this supposedly humanitarian mission.
“The Russian side is sending a humanitarian convoy to Ukraine in cooperation with representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross,” President Putin told European Commission head Jose Manuel Barroso in a phone call. Putin seemed worried about the “catastrophic consequences of the military operation led by Kiev authorities” in eastern Ukraine.
The aid is on its way to Ukraine, where the conflict between pro-Russian separatists and government forces has made more than 1,300 victims since April, according to a U.N. report.
“The convoy will deliver to the inhabitants of eastern Ukraine around 2,000 tons of humanitarian aid collected by Muscovites and residents of the Moscow region,” the administration of the Moscow region said. The aid is said to contain sugar, grains, baby food, as well as medical equipment and medication, 12,000 sleeping bags and 69 portable power generators.
The international Red Cross reported that armed conflicts between pro-Kiev troops and self-defense militias in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions had badly deteriorated the humanitarian situation in east Ukraine, where thousands of families had been forced to flee their homes.
However the international Red Cross said it had no information on what the trucks were carrying whatsoever or where they were exactly going. Moreover, according to US Department of State Deputy Spokesperson Marie Harf, she doesn’t “have any sympathy for the separatists, who have taken up arms against the Ukrainians and killed innocent civilians.”
“We believe Russia’s been trying to lay the international groundwork to support a humanitarian operation into Ukraine,” Harf added. “We are concerned that Russia could try to use a humanitarian or peacekeeping operation as a pretense for inserting elements of military force into Ukraine.”
In Kiev, President Petro Poroshenko said he is ready to allow humanitarian aid into rebel-held territory, but only if the mission is international, unarmed and enters via government-controlled checkpoints.
However Ukraine officials say Russia has attempted before to supply rebels with arms, reinforcements and ammunition under the pretext of humanitarian aid passing through the border into the rebel-held territory. Nevertheless Russia denies the allegations.