EUROPEPOLITICS

Russian humanitarian aid convoys thought to be a pretext to invasion

russian troopsA convoy of 280 trucks hauling humanitarian aid to the conflict zone in Eastern Ukraine left the base of the Ministry of Emergency Situations in Moscow on Tuesday.

According to the Russian officials, the load contains about 2,000 tons of relief supplies for the civilians, including food items, medication, sleeping bags, electricity generators. What is reported to be humanitarian aid for the residents of the war torn area of the country is contested by the Kyiv government. The Ukrainian officials speculate that the humanitarian convoy might as well contain arms and military supplies for the insurgents. The claim is corroborated the worrisome West.

The Deputy Foreign Minister of Ukraine Danylo Lubkivsky stated that “Russia keeps inventing new excuses for their policy. In Georgia, it was defending pro-Russian minorities. In Ukraine’s Crimea, preventing NATO invasion.” It is alleged that the humanitarian operation is a pretext to invasion of Ukraine by the Russian troops lined up along the Ukrainian-Russian border. If the convoy is hit at any point in time of its presence on Ukrainian soil, that might serve as an instigator for an immediate invasion of Ukraine.

Considering heightened tensions between Moscow and Kyiv, and the fact of successful advance of the Ukrainian army to regain control of the territory, it will be an easy accusation of Kyiv’s aggressive activity against non-military convoy. In the history of contemporary conflicts there are precedents of humanitarian aid convoys being hit in the midst of ongoing combat operations in conflict zones despite the light blue UN insignia. The fact that the Ukraine-bound convoy is exclusively Russian increases the chances of being hit, most likely by Russian forces themselves to generate a pretext.

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen already stated in an interview to Reuters that there was a high probability Russia would be invading Ukraine.

“We see the Russians developing the narrative and the pretext for such an operation under the guise of a humanitarian operation and we see a military buildup that could be used to conduct such illegal military operations in Ukraine,” he was quoted saying.

CNN reports that the Kremlin acknowledged sending the convoy, and in a conversation with the President of European Commission, President Putin said Russian was working with the International Committee of the Red Cross to deliver aid to civilians suffering from the conflict. Yet, the officials from the Red Cross already stated they did not know what Putin was talking about.

According to the spokesperson of ICRC, Andrew Loersch, the agency didn’t have any agreement with Russia on the humanitarian convoy.

The U.S. Ambassador to UN, Samantha Power stated during the UN Security Council meeting that Russia should not be in position to be delivering humanitarian aid, while the international aid organizations are equipped better to conduct the relief operation.

Later in the day, ITAR TASS reports, Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov confirmed that the sides had reached an agreement on the route of the convoy and entry point on the Russo-Ukrainian border. “We have agreed to the route that is comfortable to the Kiev authorities. We have agreed to have Ukrainian license plates on our trucks during their movement in Ukraine,” he said. “We have agreed to take on not only representatives of the ICRC and the OSCE aboard the trucks but also representatives of the Ukrainian authorities.”

The central government in Kyiv already ruled out any chance of convoy being escorted into Ukraine by the Russian military.

The anti-terrorist operation by the Ukrainian army against the pro-Russian separatists in the Donbas region caused a refugee crisis. Both sides claim an increasing number of refugees. The United Nations has estimated earlier that nearly 118,000 people are currently registered as internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Ukraine, with 87 percent of them from the country’s east.

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