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    Russian aid convoy to Transdnestr a provocation - Ukraine

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    "Why couldn't this aid have been provided earlier?" Boris Tarasyuk said. "Why is it not being sent by air or rail? Obviously, all of this is designed to influence the outcome of the [March 26] elections in Ukraine."

    KIEV, March 24 (RIA Novosti) - Ukraine's foreign minister said Friday that the passage of a Russian humanitarian convoy through his country to a breakaway region in neighboring Moldova was a provocation ahead of upcoming parliamentary elections.

    "Why couldn't this aid have been provided earlier?" Boris Tarasyuk said. "Why is it not being sent by air or rail? Obviously, all of this is designed to influence the outcome of the [March 26] elections in Ukraine."

    Moscow sent the convoy of 24 trucks carrying 230 metric tons of medicines and other essentials to the residents of the self-proclaimed republic of Transdnestr on Wednesday.

    Tarasyuk said that, according to some sources, "two of the 24 trucks are empty," adding that it was an "attempt to influence the results of the Ukrainian elections and a provocation."

    Meanwhile, Boris Zubkov, the Russian consul to Ukraine, said the vehicles were not carrying any campaign slogans or inscriptions, but only the insignia of the Russian Emergency Situations Ministry.

    Russia sent the humanitarian aid to Transdnestr after the local authorities reported huge economic losses and said the republic was facing a humanitarian catastrophe following the imposition of new customs regulations by Ukraine at Moldova's request.

    Yury Brazhnikov, head of the Emergency Situations Ministry's international department, said the Russian convoy had stopped for a break 60 kilometers (37 miles) away from the Ukrainian capital, Kiev, and criticized Ukraine for making traveling conditions more difficult.

    Ukraine imposed stricter regulations on the Russian convoy Thursday, insisting that its route be changed, that Russian symbols be removed, and that it travel only at night.

    The convoy had retained all its state symbols, in accordance with the Geneva Convention, Brazhnikov said.

    The new customs regulations in Transdnestr require all goods from the region bound for Ukraine to have an official Moldovan stamp. Some Russian politicians have said the new regulations amount to an economic blockade of the region.

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