MOSCOW, August 10 (RIA Novosti) — The question of humanitarian aid supplies to eastern Ukraine must not be delayed, the need for ceasefire in the region is critical, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Sunday.
"We believe the issue [of providing humanitarian aid] is pressing and must not be delayed. The question is under the Russian president’s control. I am certain that we will be able to agree on this aid as soon as possible," Lavrov told journalists.
"Ceasefire is not only possible, but is critical. The Ukrainian authorities put their names under the need for an immediate ceasefire back in April this year, when the Geneva agreement was signed," Lavrov said.
On Tuesday, Russia came up with a proposal to the UN Security Council to deploy an international humanitarian mission with Russian humanitarian aid under the auspices of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Ukraine’s troubled eastern regions.
Lavrov said he discussed the issue with his Ukrainian counterpart, as well as with UK's foreign minister, US Secretary of State and the management of the International Committee of the Red Cross. The latter welcomed Russia's initiative.
"Our current priority is to agree with the Ukrainian side and the International Committee of the Red Cross, with the UN international humanitarian organizations on sending humanitarian aid to the Luhansk and Donetsk regions," the foreign minister said, adding the regions lacked electricity, medicine, and water, and were in the "sharpest humanitarian situation."
Kiev denied there was a humanitarian crisis in Ukraine and said it would manage on its own, but later offered the United States to join the humanitarian mission.
UK Prime Minister’s Office said Saturday Britain and the United States believed that any humanitarian mission, which Russia may deploy in Ukraine, would be "unjustified and illegal."
On Saturday, Kremlin's spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said that the US authorities’ statement saying they would view Russia’s unilateral help in Ukraine’s east as invasion "has been heard." Lavrov later urged US Secretary of State John Kerry to support Russia’s initiative on the deployment of a humanitarian mission in Ukraine’s southeast in coordination with international organizations.
In mid-April, Kiev launched a military crackdown on independence supporters in eastern Ukraine.
On April 17, top diplomats from Russia, Ukraine, the EU and the US met in Geneva and agreed on a set of measures to de-escalate the tensions in crisis-hit Ukraine. The joint communique called on the warring sides in particular to refrain from violence and launch a national dialogue. Despite the deal, tensions in the country continued to escalate with Moscow repeatedly slamming Kiev for neglecting the Geneva statement.
According to a UN report released in late July, the conflict has claimed the lives of 1,129 civilians, with another 3,442 injured.
Russia has provided shelter to more than 730,000 people who have fled Ukraine since the start of the conflict between government forces and independence supporters.