UK & World News

  • 13 August 2014, 14:54

Ukraine Deaths Soar As Russian Lorries Halted

The number of people killed in the Ukraine conflict has nearly doubled in the space of just two weeks, the UN has said.

At least 2,086 have now been killed in clashes between pro-Russian militants and Ukrainian forces - up from a figure of 1,129 recorded on July 26.

It came as an unofficial Russian aid convoy trundled towards the border, where Ukrainian officials threatened to halt its journey unless its cargo is inspected by workers with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

Russia insists the convoy of some 280 trucks was organised by its emergencies ministry, a non-military agency tasked with providing humanitarian relief.

At least part of the convoy ground to a halt at an air base inthe Russian town of Vorenezh, the Reuters news agency reported.

One lorry driver, interviewed on Russian TV stationRossiya-24, said: "The journey isn't short of course. But how could we not help our Slavic brothers? We are all for it."

A spokesman for the Ukrainian Red Cross said it was waiting for an "exact description" of the goods on board the lorries, adding that the vehicles' intended destination was unknown.

However, there are fears in Ukraine and among some western countries that the mission is a pretext for sending troops, agents or arms to rebel-held areas.

Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk accused Moscow, which denies supplying rebels with weapons, of cynicism.

"First they send tanks, Grad missiles and bandits who fire on Ukrainians and then they send water and salt," he told a government meeting.

The UN includes Ukrainian soldiers, armed groups and civilians in its casualty figures but admits these are "very conservative estimates".

It says more than 5,000 people have been wounded since fighting erupted in mid-April, suggesting that, on average, more than 60 people are killed or injured every day.

Meanwhile, at least 12 militiamen fighting pro-Russian separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine were reportedly killed in an ambush near the rebel-held city of Donetsk.

A spokesman for the Right Sector volunteer battalion said the fighters were shot dead as they travelled on a bus.

At least three people were killed inside Donetsk as the government intensified its shelling campaign, the Associated Press reported.