The first group of Russian convoy trucks carrying humanitarian aid has rolled into the stricken city of Luhansk in eastern Ukraine after crossing the border Friday, the city authority said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said in a phone call with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday that Russia had to act decisively in the situation with the aid convoy in order to prevent further delays of the delivery of humanitarian cargo to the crisis-hit eastern Ukraine. “Further delays would be inadmissible,” the Kremlin press service said.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said Friday on its website that Moscow had decided to begin moving its convoy of humanitarian aid toward the eastern Ukrainian city of Luhansk and would oppose any attempts to disrupt the badly needed humanitarian mission.
“It’s impossible to bear this type of lawlessness, outright lies and inability to agree. All of the pretexts for delaying the delivery of aid to the people in the region of the humanitarian catastrophe have been exhausted. The Russian side has made the decision to act. Our column with humanitarian aid is beginning its movement toward Luhansk,” the ministry said.
The Russian Foreign Ministry also said that Kiev may be dragging on the process of delivering Russian humanitarian aid to crisis-hit eastern Ukraine until there was no one left to be helped.
Moscow also noted that Russia has made unprecedented efforts “in all spheres and at all levels” to settle the formalities: the ICRC had been provided with a complete list of the goods, Russia agreed to meet the wishes regarding the checking and rechecking of the route of delivery, the completion of the procedures for its transmission; signed the necessary documents, and provided all the necessary security guarantees.
However, the ICRC representatives refused to escort the convoy with the Russian humanitarian aid on the territory of Ukraine for security reasons.
“The Russian Aid Convoy is moving into Ukraine, but we are not escorting it due to the volatile security situation,” ICRC said on Twitter. “We've not received sufficient security guarantees from the fighting parties. Our team in Luhansk reports heavy shelling overnight.”
Earlier this week, ICRC president Peter Maurer discussed the situation with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and said that Russia and southeastern Ukraine independence supporters fulfilled their duty concerning the safety of the humanitarian convoy, while “the Ukrainian side failed to provide the required guarantees for the convoy’s safe passage and subsequent aid distribution," a Russian Foreign Ministry statement said.
At the same time, Russia’s Red Cross head Raisa Lukuttsova told RIA Novosti on Friday that the organization is ready to participate in the delivery of Russian aid to Luhansk.
The first group of trucks carrying Russian humanitarian aid to the population of violence-torn eastern Ukraine has arrived in the city of Luhansk, authorities of the self-proclaimed Luhansk republic said Friday. Earlier the same day, a spokesman for Russia’s Southern Customs Directorate, Rayan Farukshin said Russian officials have completed customs clearance of all humanitarian aid convoy vehicles.
The first group of 34 trucks inspected on Thursday, crossed the Ukrainian-Russian border near the Donetsk checkpoint at 12:08 local time (09:08 GMT) on Friday and started to move unaccompanied by the Red Cross, according to a special report of the OSCE observers. A second group of 34 unexamined trucks followed them. According to the report, a total of 134 trucks have crossed the border by 15:20 (12:20 GMT) on Friday. There are 280 trucks in the Russian humanitarian aid convoy.
Kremlin presented to Kiev the detailed arguments for the delivery of humanitarian aid to Ukraine. The telephone conversations were conducted by the head of the Kremlin administration, Sergei Ivanov and Chief of Staff of the Ukrainian president Boris Lozhkin.
"Ivanov and Lozhkin called for a swift delivery of humanitarian assistance, without any incidents," the press-secretary of the Russian president, Dmitry Peskov told RIA Novosti.
Russia insists that its decision to speed up humanitarian cargo delivery to eastern Ukraine without waiting for Kiev’s formal approval was morally right and fully in line with the international norms, the Russian Foreign Ministry said Friday.
“We act fully in line with norms of the international humanitarian law,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said in a statement.
“We are sure that we did the right thing. And we accuse Kiev and its backers of repeatedly putting their political interests, which are anti-Russian in essence, above the basic human values of kindness and compassion,” Ryabkov continued.
Kiev authorities took every possible step to hinder the delivery of Russian humanitarian aid to eastern Ukraine, according to the Russian Foreign Ministry.
“It was Kiev, obviously backed by its Western patrons, which was doing everything to hamper the vital humanitarian mission in the past days,” Ryabkov said.
“Until the very last moment Kiev, apparently, hoped that this deliberate time-wasting would have the desired effect. Ukrainian authorities needed time to finish the military operation to suppress the protest of their people, by covering with blood and tears the place, where Russian humanitarian aid is being distributed. It didn’t work out,” the deputy foreign minister concluded.
Ukraine's Foreign Ministry called it "violation of international regulations" that trucks from the Russian convoy had crossed the Ukrainian border, and urged international partners to condemn Russia. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko urged Russia to keep the situation with humanitarian aid within the international legal framework, the press service of the Ukrainian president reported.
Ukrainian National Security and Defense Council previously reported that the Ukrainian border guards and customs, as well as the ICRC representatives, had not examined the contents of 90 trucks from the Russian convoy.
Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin departed to meet with foreign ambassadors, to discuss the Russian humanitarian convoy crossing the Ukrainian border.
The European Union on Friday condemned the “unauthorized” entry of a Russian humanitarian aid convoy into Ukraine without a Red Cross escort and called on Moscow to reverse its decision.
“We deplore Russia's decision to enter the humanitarian consignment into Ukrainian territory, without ICRC's escort or the consent of the Ukrainian authorities,” Sebastien Brabant, deputy spokesperson for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, said in a statement.
“This is a clear violation of the Ukrainian border. This also goes counter to the previous arrangements reached between Ukraine, Russia and the ICRC. We urge Russia to reverse its decision,” the statement said.
Brabant also noted that, “Ukraine's sovereignty, territorial integrity, unity and independence must be respected.”
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.
“We are expecting [their] response soon,” the Russian Red Cross chief said.
The UN Security Council held an emergency meeting on Friday behind closed doors to discuss the escalation of the Ukrainian crisis, the UN press service announced.
Russian Ambassador to the UN Vitaly Churkin said after the closed meeting had ended that Russia has sent a humanitarian convoy to the east of Ukraine, considering that it has received official authorization of Kiev government.
"If we are talking about respect for sovereignty, we have received a formal agreement from them [the Ukrainian authorities]. We have discussed this issue with them, and if they decided to cheat, then it's their problem," Churkin told Russian reporters after the closed meeting of the UN Security Council.
The note that gave consent for the passage of the humanitarian convoy through the Ukrainian border was received on 12 August, Churkin said.
"Some members of the organization were not interested in the fact that civilians are being killed in the eastern Ukraine, not interested in the fact that there is a humanitarian catastrophe in the region. They were worried by the fact that Russia is providing humanitarian assistance to the people who are under fire," the Russian envoy to UN said.
"But we explained that we are in contact with the Ukrainian authorities and hope that there will be no problems with humanitarian aid and its delivery. The situation in the Security Council around this matter has then calmed down," Churkin said.