MOSCOW, August 22 (RIA Novosti) – Volunteers of the Russian Red Cross are ready to join the effort to deliver humanitarian aid to the war-torn southeastern Ukraine, the organization’s chief, Raisa Lukutsova, said Friday.
“So far, none of our volunteers has headed [for Ukraine]. We cannot leave without the consent of the Ukrainian side. Everything is being blocked on purpose to prevent the Russian Red Cross, just like the International Committee of the Red Cross, from taking part in the operation,” Lukutsova said.
The Russian Red Cross has already sent telegrams to inform its partners in Ukraine and the European Union about the situation, Lukutsova added.
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) are discussing the delivery of the humanitarian aid in Geneva.
“We are expecting [their] response soon,” the Russian Red Cross chief said.
The Russian Foreign Ministry accused Ukraine of intentionally holding up the aid convoy, saying Moscow was not going to put up with any more of Kiev’s “blatant lies” about why the delivery had to be delayed for days.
The ministry said it would welcome an escort by ICRC staff to facilitate the delivery of the essential items to the besieged Ukrainian city of Luhansk. A Red Cross spokeswoman later said ICRC personnel allegedly could not follow the convoy into Ukraine pending security guarantees.
The convoy is carrying about 2,000 tons of humanitarian aid, including 400 tons of grain, 100 tons of sugar and 54 tons of medication, along with other cargo.
Earlier in the day, the first trucks of Russia’s 280-strong convoy had been cleared for entry by Ukrainian customs officers before setting out for the affected areas in Ukraine’s Luhansk Region.