Ukraine set terms on Tuesday for allowing in Russian aid after Moscow sent a 280-truck convoy to the conflict-torn east and fueled fears the mission could be used to aid rebels.
The authorities in Kiev said they would stop the Russian lorries at the border but allow the aid to be unloaded and shipped into eastern Ukraine with the help of the Red Cross.
“We will not allow (the aid) to be accompanied by the Russian ministry for emergency situations or by Russian troops,” said Valeriy Chalyy, deputy head of the presidential administration.
Moscow also backed the Red Cross role. The Russian foreign ministry said on Tuesday that a humanitarian convoy which is heading to eastern Ukraine from Russia would cross the border only under the aegis of the Red Cross.
“After the Russia-Ukraine border is crossed, the column will go under the aegis of the International Committee of the Red Cross,” it said in a statement. Russia has stepped up calls for a humanitarian mission to the east where Ukrainian troops have tightened their grip following four months of fierce battles with pro-Moscow rebels that have left cities without power, running water or fuel.
There are also food shortages.
A convoy of 280 lorries left Moscow on Tuesday for eastern Ukraine carrying 2,000 tonnes of “humanitarian supplies,” including medical equipment, baby food and sleeping bags, Russian media reported. Sources told Russian news agencies the convoy would arrive at the border on Wednesday.
President Vladimir Putin had announced on Monday that Moscow was sending a humanitarian mission to deal with the “catastrophic consequences” of Kiev’s offensive against insurgents. Moscow insisted it was working in collaboration with the International Committee of the Red Cross and that the convoy would not include military personnel.
But the international aid agency said on Tuesday there was still no agreement on the issue and France insisted such convoys should not be allowed to cross the border unless they met strict conditions, including Red Cross approval. The US and other western powers accuse Moscow of fanning the insurgency by supplying arms to the rebels. And at a time when Ukrainian forces are gaining ground against the rebels, they have also warned Russia against sending troops into Ukraine in the guise of a humanitarian mission.