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19 Aug, 2014 16:43

Kiev guarantees safety for Russian aid convoy ‘only in areas it controls’

Kiev guarantees safety for Russian aid convoy ‘only in areas it controls’

Ukraine is ready to ensure the safety of the Russian humanitarian aid convoy, but only in areas controlled by the country’s security forces, the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry said.

“For its part, Ukraine has repeatedly reaffirmed its readiness to provide security guarantees in the area controlled by the troops involved in the anti-terrorist operation,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Evgeny Perebiynis said at a briefing in Kiev.

As for the areas held by the self-defense forces, it’s the responsibility of their leaders to provide safe passage for the convoy, he added.

The delivery of the Russian humanitarian aid to eastern Ukraine could start in the next couple of hours, Vitaly Churkin, Russia’s permanent representative to the UN, said during a Security Council meeting.

“We hope that no one will resume attempts to hamper the delivery of humanitarian aid from Russia, and in the next couple of hours these activities will begin,”
Churkin said.

The humanitarian convoy with Russian aid for Ukraine’s war-affected Donetsk and Lugansk regions has been stuck at the border between the two states since August 14.

A total of 280 trucks with almost 1,800 tons of medical supplies, food and other essential goods were unable to move on without safety guarantees from the Ukrainian authorities.

Lorries part of a Russian humanitarian convoy leave their parking for the "Donetsk" checkpoint at the Ukrainian border some 30 km outside the town of Kamensk-Shakhtinsky in the Rostov region, on August 17, 2014. (AFP Photo / Dmitry Serebryakov)

According to Perebiynis, the representatives of the ICRC have been sent to southern Russia’s Rostov region to escort the humanitarian aid on its way to Ukraine.

“The preliminary plan developed by the International Committee of the Red Cross provided that each group of 30 trucks with humanitarian aid will be accompanied by about five Red Cross employees,”
he said.

“At the same time, the Committee stands for a speedy return of the Russian trucks to Russia” after the mission is complete, he added.

The Ukrainian authorities plan to distribute Russian humanitarian aid among the residents of the Lugansk region, the city of Donetsk and the newly “liberated territories,” Perebiynis said.

Earlier Tuesday, the Russian foreign minister talked to ICRC chief Peter Maurer by telephone, with both sides agreeing that the convoy’s safety must be “urgently resolved with the Ukrainian side.”

Maurer noted that “all security arrangements concerning the safety of the convoy and ICRC staff involved in the operation have been made fully by the Russian side and the self-defense forces,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

President of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) Peter Maurer (AFP Photo / Gali Tibbon)

Lavrov reminded Maurer that the situation with food, water and electricity is deteriorating on a daily basis in the conflict-stricken areas of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions.

“The infrastructure is being destroyed; patients remain without medication, and children are without food. Basic necessities are lacking in many villages and towns. The rapid delivery of Russian humanitarian aid is now more important than ever,” Lavrov said.

In early August, Moscow proposed to the UN Security Council that an international mission with Russian humanitarian aid, under ICRC supervision, be sent to southeastern Ukraine in response to the humanitarian crisis in the area.

However, the move was not welcomed by Kiev, which came up with bizarre accusations that Moscow was using the humanitarian convoy as a cover to deploy its troops into Ukraine.

The Ukrainian authorities agreed that the Russian cargo was humanitarian aid only after receiving a special petition from the Red Cross last week.

Currently, only 16 trucks from the humanitarian convoy are at the 'Donetsk' border checkpoint on the Russian side, awaiting inspection, while the rest are still parked at a local depot to avoid jamming the border crossing.