Trucks from a Russian aid convoy meant for conflict-stricken eastern Ukraine has breached that country’s border in what the Ukrainian government is calling a “direct invasion”.
“The Russian side has decided to act,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said. “Our column with humanitarian aid is starting to move in the direction of Luhansk.”
The 280-truck convoy had been held up for days at the border for inspection by Ukrainian officials, with some of them voicing their suspicion that the trucks would be used to transport military equipment. The Russian government, however, insists that the trucks only contain aid materials, such as food, blankets, and medicine.
The Russian foreign ministry warned “against any attempts to disrupt a totally humanitarian mission.”
“We discussed providing humanitarian aid. This is what Russia is doing in this particular case. The United States does not have a monopoly on humanism,” said Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin.
“There was ample possibility for double checking on the convoy. Journalists were shown the cargo. We went into very detailed discussion with ICRC (International Committee of the Red Cross) professionals.”
The ICRC, which was overseeing the transfer of the trucks into Ukraine, has said that it will not be escorting the convoy as was initially planned, due to the region’s “volatile security situation”.
“We’ve not received sufficient security guarantees from the fighting parties,” an ICRC spokeswoman said. “Our team in Luhansk reports heavy shelling overnight.”