Ukraine won’t let a convoy of 280 trucks that Russia says are carrying humanitarian aid to cross into its territory in its current form as it doesn’t adhere to international rules and must be led by the Red Cross.
Russia’s Emergencies Ministry said the trucks carrying 2,000 metric tons of donated food, medicine and drinking water left Moscow for areas held by pro-Russian rebels in southeastern Ukraine today. Ukrainian military spokesman Andriy Lysenko said the convoy was carrying military gear in the guise of aid and any assistance would only be let in after a Red Cross evaluation that may take a week.
“Humanitarian cargo will arrive to Ukraine in compliance with Ukrainian and international laws and according to Red Cross practices,” Lysenko said in Kiev. The Red Cross will “evaluate the needs of citizens in the conflict zone in eastern Ukraine during the week. The humanitarian mission will be undertaken after this evaluation.”
The humanitarian push comes as Ukrainian forces tighten a noose around rebel strongholds in the eastern cities of Donetsk and Luhansk, where thousands of people are reported to be without water, power and medical aid. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko rejected a call for a cease-fire by militants two days ago and told them to abandon their effort to wrest eastern Ukrainian regions from Kiev’s control and join Russia in a rebellion that has killed more than 1,200 people.
Ukraine and its allies in the U.S. and European Union have warned Russia not to use a humanitarian mission as a guise for military intervention in Ukraine. The Red Cross said no one had informed it about the trucks and no aid can be delivered until hostilities end.
“Nobody contacted us,” Alla Khabarova, the head of the Red Cross in Ukraine, said by phone today. “They should have done it via the Russian Red Cross and via us and provide a list of what aid is provided and who is accompanying it. All military action, all shooting, has to be ended.”