E.Ukraine’s Lugansk to start distributing Russian aid Monday, trucks return home
All vehicles had reached the Ukrainian-Russian border without incidents and the last of them crossed the border in the direction of Russia at around 6:30 pm local time (2:30 pm GMT). Early on Saturday, a convoy of 245 trucks colored in white paint crossed the border and headed to Lugansk to bring much needed relief supplies to the residents of the war-torn city.
The 2,000 tons of Russian humanitarian aid include food, power generators, water purification systems, medicine and blankets. The convoy was welcomed by the population of Lugansk as people lined up on the sides of the roads and waved Russian flags.
After unloading in Lugansk, the trucks made their way back to Russia’s Rostov region, which is bordering Ukraine.
The second Russian convoy has arrived just in time as the city almost ran out of first batch of humanitarian aid delivered on August 22, Valery Potapov, deputy prime minister of the self-proclaimed People’s Republic of Donetsk, said.
“The supplies from the first convoy have almost ended. We still have a small amount of canned meat, but we had to use our own stock to provide people with sugar and cereal,” Potapov told RIA-Novosti news agency.
The handout of the aid to the people will begin in Lugansk on Monday, he said.
Potapov added that its “more or less calm [in Lugansk] because of the so-called the cease-fire” and “people began returning (to their homes) en masse”, which makes it difficult to predict how long the aid will last.
Meanwhile, Ukraine claimed that the second Russian humanitarian aid convoy entered the country illegally.
Ukrainian border officials were not allowed to inspect the cargo, Col. Andrey Lysenko, spokesman for Ukraine's National Security Council, said.
But Russia’s Federal Security Service has denied the claims, saying that it offered full cooperation to the Ukrainian side.
“We repeatedly suggested that Ukrainian border guards and customs officers take part in inspections of a humanitarian convoy that was passing through border and customs control at the Donetsk border-crossing point, but the Ukrainian side rejected the offer,” Nikolay Sinitsyn, a spokesman for the FSB's border department in the southern Russian Rostov region, said.
According to the spokesman, the Ukrainians border guards were just standing nearby, watching the Russian customs service inspecting the trucks.
“It's necessary to note that no one hindered the work of the Ukrainian side. Representatives of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) were also working at the checkpoint,” Sinitsyn said.
Ukraine has been engulfed in violent internal conflict since April, when Kiev’s military began its crackdown on the southeastern Donetsk and Lugansk regions of the country after they refused to recognize the country’s new coup-imposed authorities.
The United Nations said that the death toll in the Ukrainian conflict has exceeded 3,000, with this number including the 298 passengers and crew on board the MH17 airliner.
The number of internally displaced Ukrainians has reached 260,000, with another 814,000 finding refuge in Russia, the UN said.
The sides agreed a ceasefire during talks in Minsk, Belarus on September 5. However, a great deal of work remains to be completed before a full resolution is reached.