UK & World News

  • 13 August 2014, 18:31

Ukraine: Red Cross Urged To Reject Russia Convoy

Western diplomats have made "strong representations" to the International Committee of the Red Cross to avoid getting involved in Russia's 2,000-ton humanitarian aid convoy heading for Ukraine.

According to Sky sources, the UK, US, France and others have told the ICRC that they fear the convoy will be a "Trojan Horse" and serve as a pretext for deepening Russian involvement in eastern Ukraine.

The death toll from fighting this year has now climbed above 2,000 - with 1,000 added during the past four weeks.

Another 285,000 people have been displaced.

Russia has sent a 280-truck convoy carrying sleeping bags, grain, generators and other essential items for survival for the tens of thousands of people cut off from safe supplies by heavy fighting, especially around Lugansk and Donetsk, the two largest cities in the region.

But "humanitarian aid and intervention" served as a covering excuse for Russia's invasion of Georgia in 2008 and earlier incursions which carved South Ossetia and Abkhazia away from Georgia.

As a consequence, Ukraine said that the convoy would not be allowed to cross from Russia in Russian vehicles.

These are believed to have come from the Russian Tamaz Rifle Brigade and have been re-painted white.

Russian troops have been accused by Nato and the Ukrainians of having fired artillery and other heavy weapons from Russian territory onto Ukrainian troops in support of pro-Russian separatist rebels.

Moscow is also known to have significant numbers of its foreign spy agency - the GRU - on the ground marshalling volunteers from Ukraine, Chechnya and even Serbia, who came into Ukraine via Russia.

"There is a strong feeling that, if the aid comes in under any organisation's flag, even the ICRC, it may get attacked by gunmen or held up and that this sort of an incident could be used by Russia to send troops into the country under the guise of humanitarian intervention," said a senior European diplomat.

The ICRC has said there is a dire need for humanitarian assistance to tens of thousands of people.

"There are significant and immediate needs for medicine, food and clean drinking water," an ICRC official told Sky News.

"On top of that, power, fuel and, of course, human safety is in extremely short supply."

The convoy officially set off for the border crossing at Shebekino, north of Kharkiv.

It stopped on Wednesday at Voronezh, a junction town where the convoy could head on its declared track - or turn left and head due south.

If it takes that route, the West and Kiev will sound loud alarm bells and suggest that the convoy is heading for rebel-controlled border crossings into Russia and accuse Moscow of a barely disguised invasion.

The ICRC is under pressure from Moscow, and from the desperate humanitarian reality, to take control of the contents of the convoy at least at the Ukrainian border.

It has asked for more details from the Russians, who have not yet supplied them.

Meanwhile, the Ukrainian prime minister reacted with undisguised rage at the Moscow convoy.

"The level of Russian cynicism knows no bounds," said Arseny Yatseniuk at a government meeting.

"First they send tanks, Grad missiles and bandits who fire on Ukrainians and then they send water and salt."

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