الجمعة , يونيو 12 2020

Russian aid convoy sits and waits



A Russian convoy of trucks carrying humanitarian aid for Ukraine

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The BBC’s Daniel Sandford said there is uncertainty over the fate of the convoy

A huge Russian convoy carrying aid for east Ukraine has stopped in central Russia as officials in Ukraine say they will not let it cross the border.

Almost 300 Russian lorries taking aid to the conflict-hit region are at a standstill near Voronezh, 300km (185 miles) from the proposed crossing.

The convoy left a military base near Moscow on Tuesday.

There have been fears Russia could use the convoy as a pretext for military action in Ukraine.

“Provocation by a cynical aggressor is not permissible on our territory,” Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said on his Facebook page (in Russian).

Prime Minister Arseny Yatsenyuk described the Russian move as “boundless cynicism”.

“First they deliver tanks, Grad [rocket launchers], terrorists and bandits…, and then they deliver water and salt,” he said.

Russian aid loaded onto lorries - TV grab (12 August 2014)Russian TV showed the aid being loaded onto lorries on Tuesday morning

At least 2,086 people have died since mid-April, when Ukraine sent troops against pro-Russia rebels in Donetsk and Luhansk regions, according to United Nations figures released on Wednesday.

The fighting has displaced almost 300,000 people, many of whom have fled to Russia.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is expected in Crimea on Wednesday for a meeting with members of the Security Council.

Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in March, a move which triggered the first round of Western sanctions against Moscow.

Ukraine conditions

The lorries, said to be carrying nearly 2,000 tonnes of aid, left Alabino in the Moscow area bound for Luhansk on Tuesday morning.

Russian TV showed the cargo, including grain, baby food and medicine, bound for civilians trapped by fighting in the area held by pro-Russia rebels.

A young boy holds a loaf of bread as residents of the eastern Ukrainian city of Lysychansk queue to receive bread distributed as part of humanitarian aid (27 July 2014)Residents in Donetsk and Luhansk are facing food shortages and power cuts because of the fighting

Burnt-out cars in Yasynuvata, near Donetsk (12 August 2014)Ukraine government forces continue to shell rebel areas

Woman walks past damaged house in Donetsk (11 August 2014)Thousands are reported to be without water, electricity and medicine

The convoy stopped for the night at Voronezh, as plans were made for a crossing at Shebekino-Pletenivka, into Ukraine’s Kharkiv region.

Rumours circulated all morning that the convoy was on the move again.

Ukrainian officials insist that aid should pass through a government-controlled border post and be accompanied by Red Cross officials.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Tuesday that Moscow had agreed to these conditions.

However, the Red Cross has not yet approved the mission, saying it has not received enough information or security guarantees.

Western officials have expressed concerns that Russia is using humanitarian assistance as a pretext to put troops in eastern Ukraine.

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War in Ukraine: the human cost

A woman kisses the coffin of a Ukrainian soldier killed fighting in the east, at his funeral in Lviv, 7 August

Casualties: At least 2,086 people have been killed in the east since mid-April, including civilians, the military and members of the armed groups, the UN said on 13 August. Nearly 5,000 people have been confirmed wounded. Ukraine said on 11 August that 468 of its soldiers had been killed. The rebels have reported losing at least 800 fighters.

Refugees: Nearly 300,000 people have been forced from their homes this year. More than 117,000 are displaced inside Ukraine, 87% of them from the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, while a further 168,000 have crossed into Russia. Source: UN refugee agency

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Nato warned on Monday that the Russians were developing a “narrative and a pretext” for a military operation under the guise of aid.

On Wednesday, UK Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond called on Russia to “state without undue delay the items they intend to supply” and respect the neutrality of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

Ukraine has reported in recent days that Russia has massed 45,000 troops on its border.

Advances by Ukrainian troops in recent weeks have put pressure on the rebel-held cities of Donetsk and Luhansk, leaving the latter in particular virtually cut off.

However, reports on Wednesday said that 12 members of the ultranationalist group Right Sector, fighting on the side of the Ukrainian government, had been killed in an ambush near Donetsk. Several others were captured.

Russia, Ukraine map

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