After crossing into Ukraine, a Russian aid convoy of more than 100 trucks is drawing renewed accusations of meddling from the government in Kiev.
According to Russia’s Tass news agency, the trucks delivered humanitarian aid on Sunday to the rebel-held cities of Donetsk and Luhansk in eastern Ukraine before returning to their home country.
“All the trucks were unloaded and have set off for a return journey from Donetsk and Luhansk empty,” an official with the Russian Ministry of Emergency Situations told Tass. “They are heading for the Russian border.”
But Ukraine’s government contends that the trucks were not authorized to cross the border and largely intended to provide supplies to the militants who have been fighting to gain autonomy from Kiev.
“The lion’s share of humanitarian supplies find their way to the rebels partly in the form of food, but mostly it is ammunition, equipment and other things for combat operations,” said Andriy Lysenko, a Ukrainian military spokesman quoted by Reuters on Sunday.
But Tass reported that the Russian aid convoy contained more than 1,000 tons of humanitarian supplies for the two cities in eastern Ukraine, “includ[ing] building materials and foods, such as canned meat and fish and condensed milk.”
Last week also marked the one-year anniversary of the events that first sparked what would become a revolution toppling the government of then-President Viktor Yanukovych.
Current Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko attended church services Sunday to remember those events and victims of police violence in the ensuing riots. Writing on his Facebook page, Poroshenko said that “this church became the first refuge for the injured” and “these events have forever carved themselves into my heart,” according to a Bloomberg translation.
On Friday, a situation report released by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said that eastern Ukraine faces steep humanitarian challenges as winter arrives. The report cited concerns over heating as well as public infrastructure and housing in the areas controlled by the pro-Russian rebels.
Ongoing conflict mars the safety and security of conflict-affected people in the east, and winter temperatures, already below zero, threaten the health and wellbeing of vulnerable displaced people. Reports of extreme vulnerability in state institutions in or near areas of conflict are of serious concern – the chronically ill, mentally ill, disabled, elderly, and orphaned children are in particular need of immediate protection, food and health response.
Sunday’s Russian aid convoy to eastern Ukraine is the eighth such delivery of what Moscow says are humanitarian supplies over the past several months. Tass says that altogether 9,500 tons of “building material, foodstuffs and medicines” have been delivered, while Kiev maintains those convoys have mostly served to resupply the rebels.[photo credit: babasteve]