Moscow made the decision after the trucks sat idle in a customs inspection zone at the Russian-Ukrainian border for more than a week while awaiting permission from Kiev to enter the country.
“The total weight of the cargo is over 260,000 kilos. It’s composed of cereals, salt and water,” the border service reported. Two of the 34 trucks were carrying medication, it said.
But Russia on Friday grew tired of waiting for the final green light to move the trucks into Ukraine, with the foreign ministry saying in a strongly worded statement that it was weary of “intolerable” delays and an increasing amount of “new and artificial demands and pretexts, which is turning into a mockery.”
So it “decided to act,” sending in the trucks without permission from Ukraine or the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), which had been tasked with inspecting and accompanying the convoy to the besieged city of Luhansk.
All the trucks have crossed the border and are now in Ukraine. We are back in Russia.— Andrew Roth (@ARothNYT) August 22, 2014
Ukrainian border guards were not present on the Ukraine side to receive the aid, "only rebels in front," Roth said.
They are in Ukraine. Only beige drivers behind the wheel. No Red Cross personnel visible yet. Ten have gone in. pic.twitter.com/9sdOm5KscD— Andrew Roth (@ARothNYT) August 22, 2014
The convoy is en route to the eastern Ukrainian city of Luhansk. The separatist stronghold has been without power, telecommunications and running water for 20 days, after shells pounded the city and destroyed much of its infrastructure.
Food is also scarce in the city, as stores sell off the last of their goods. Some of the several hundreds of thousands of residents who managed to flee Luhansk, a city with a pre-war population of about 450,000, have given harrowing accounts of life amid constant fighting.
Residents wait for hours in line each day to fill their buckets at one of the few water trucks. Some, however, opt to fill their pails in local streams. Many spend a considerable amount of time in dank basements to protect themselves from exploding projectiles.
The ICRC said in a statement on Twitter that it is not escorting the convoy due to security concerns and, specifically, reports of “heavy shelling overnight.”
“The Russian Aid Convoy is moving into Ukraine, but we are not escorting it due to the volatile security situation,” said the ICRC. “We’ve not received sufficient security guarantees from the fighting parties.”
Shortly after entering Ukraine at the border town of Izvaryne, the convoy turned off the main road to Luhansk and cut north onto a country road and parked in the village of Uralo-Kavkaz, the AP reported. That route also leads to Luhansk, potentially bypassing areas controlled by Ukrainian troops.
The New York Times reporter also following the convoy reported it had turned back at Krasnodon, a city southeast of Luhansk.
Trucks turned back in Krasnodon headed along country roads close to border thru Ural-Kavkaz. Cars with rebels accompanying. Still to lugansk— Andrew Roth (@ARothNYT) August 22, 2014
With the trucks trundling toward Luhansk, and Ukraine calling the move an “invasion,” many fear provocations against the convoy, which could potentially spark an all-out war between Russia and Ukraine.
“We are warning against any attempts to sabotage this purely humanitarian mission, which was prepared a long time ago, in an atmosphere of full transparency and in cooperation with the Ukrainian side and the ICRC,” the Russian foreign ministry said.
Kiev, meanwhile, said that “all responsibility” rests with the Russian side. “Not with the terrorists, but specifically the Russian side, because this is their decision," Ukraine's Foreign Ministry said.
Tags: RUSSIA, Ukraine, US & World, WORLD