Ukraine Liveblog Day 186: Russian Aid Convoy Enters Ukraine

August 22, 2014
Russian trucks carrying humanitarian aid in Ukraine today. Photo: Andrew Roth

Yesterday’s liveblog can be found here. An archive of our liveblogs can be found here. For an overview and analysis of this developing story see our latest podcast.

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Russian UN Ambassador Invokes Syria Resolution to Justify Aid Convoy’s Invasion of Ukraine

At the request of Lithuania, an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council was convened at 3:00 pm today, amid concerns about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine with a humanitarian convoy which proceeded to Lugansk without clearance from Ukrainian customs, and in violation of international law.

Even as attention was focused on the disputed convoy, Russia was condemned by NATO for deploying artillery units within Ukraine.

Lithuanian’s permanent representative to the UN Amb. Raimonda Murmokaitė made a statement at the stake-out following the UNSC meeting, noting that Russia had blatantly ignored the lack of consent from the Ukrainians and reversed agreements made not 12 hours previously. Proceeding with the convoy was a “blatant violation of international law.” Moreover, such aid convoys “”shouldn’t be accompanied by suspicious military movements along the border of a sovereign country,” she said.

She noted that the Ukrainian Red Cross was active on the ground, along with other private donors and that in fact militants refused to accept aid from Ukrainian hands. The peculiarities around the convoy, including the mainly empty trucks, begged the question of how serious Russia was about delivering aid.

Amb. Murmokaitė also called for an investigation into the murder of the
Lithuanian honorary consul in Lugansk, who was reportedly killed by separatists

Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin discounted claims that most of the Security Council opposed his interpretation of events, countering that China and “several Latin Americans” supported Moscow’s view — although he didn’t want to “point any fingers.”

He said the UNSC session was a “kingdom of crooked mirrors” and that other ambassadors were “unconcerned about the humanitarian catastrophe” and only concerned about the Russian aid convoy.

Churkin maintained that Russia had received official acceptance in an official note that was sent by the Ukrainian foreign ministry, and therefore after 34 trucks were cleared, but others began to be stalled, Russia decided to move forward.

As expected, as justification for these actions, Churkin referenced a recent UNSC resolution mandating a temporary delivery of aid to Syrian civilians caught in armed conflict without the consent of the Assad government.

“We broke some new ground on the Syria resolution, which allowed humanitarian aid to be delivered without consent,” he said, while adding that he was “not making any direct linkages, but there is a precedent.”

He noted that Ukrainian forces were shelling Lugansk, and that the ICRC could not accompany the convoy due to security concerns.

“If they shell the places we’re delivering so it will not be delivered, we won’t tolerate that,” he said.

Asked again by a reporter regarding “any consonance” between Russia’s action today and the Syrian resolution, Churkin reiterated that he did not want to make any direct linkage, but “important legal ground was broken,” and the Syrian resolution was adopted with Russian Federation support. “It’s an important legal point of departure,” he said.

But the Syrian resolution mandated United Nations agencies and their implementing partners — not a state that is a party to the armed conflict, as Russia is with Ukraine — to make deliveries at four specific checkpoints. Furthermore, a time-limit of 180 days was placed on the permission, and the procedure is to be monitored.

Even so, Churkin disingenuously went back in forth in his remarks at the UNSC stake-out claiming “only after permission did it [the convoy] start moving” — which was not the case as the trucks weren’t cleared — and then claiming the Syrian resolution broke the legal restraints of sovereignty — when the Syrian resolution dealt with delivery by UN agencies, not states.

Asked about the prospects for the International Committee of the Red Cross to deliver aid in Lugansk, Churkin said, “they have people on the ground in Lugansk” and that “they made some remarks to the effect they might be prepared” to distribute and “that was the deal.” The Russian media also conveyed the ICRC tweet in an upbeat fashion implying that it would become involved in Lugansk now.

But in fact the ICRC has not clarified that it will participate in aid delivery or distribution in Lugansk.

Under the Geneva Conventions and the rules of the ICRC, states may use the symbol of the red cross to invoke a protective status where medical and humanitarian assistance will be provided unarmed.

Yet Russia has exploited the existence of negotiations with the ICRC about its own participation to imply falsely on Russian state TV and in official statements that the ICRC has condoned the manner in which the convoy was organized and proceeded.

We will recall that the convoy got its start on a Russian army base, with vehicles re-painted white by Russian soldiers, and has also essentially served as a decoy while Russian armor and soldiers have made incursions into Ukraine to fight alongside pro-Russian separatists against the Ukrainian armed forces.

OSCE Confirms Russian ‘Aid’ Convoy Left Without ICRC Escort

Russian humanitarian aid trucks departed from the Donetsk Border Crossing Point without ICRC’s escort, the OSCE’s observers confirmed in a statement on its web site:

DONETSK CHECKPOINT, Russian Federation, 22 August 2014 – On 22 August (until 15:55) a total number of 227 vehicles passed the Donetsk Border Crossing


Point (BCP) control area towards
the border between the Russian Federation and Ukraine. Out of the total
number of vehicles, 37 had been inspected. In addition, out of the 227
vehicles, between 27-30 were support vehicles and rest of them trucks.


In the afternoon and evening of
the 21 August 2014, 29 cargo trucks and 8 support vehicles (ambulances,
recovery and maintenance and fuel vehicles) entered Donetsk BCP. These
37 vehicles (group 1) were checked by RF and UKR border and customs
personnel under ICRC’s supervision. After that, these vehicles moved
beyond the BCP control area towards the border, which is out of sight of
OM observers. During the late evening of 21 August, a second
group (group 2) of 37 vehicles arrived and was parked for the night
before the Donetsk BCP control area.

On 22 August at around 11:00 OT observed some movement beyond the control area.

At 11:48, group 2 departed, thus, group 1 must have left before (Reported at 12:08 in the Spot Report).

Between 13:05 and 13:25, group 3 consisting of 37 vehicles passed the control area towards the border.

Between 13:30 and 13:55, group 4 consisting of 39 vehicles passed the control area towards the border.

Between 14:45 and 15:10, group 5 consisting of 32 vehicles passed the control area towards the border.

Between 15:15 and 15:50, group 6 consisting of 45 vehicles passed the control area towards the border.

After the last vehicle passed the control area at 15:55, a total number
of 227 vehicles had passed the control area towards the border.

At 16:20, OT observed 5 fuel trucks and one ambulance re-entering the BCP from the border.

The number of 227 vehicles coincides with the number given by a RF
senior official, who reported that 227 vehicles had passed in four

GRU Soldier Spotted in Ukraine?

A soldier has reportedly been spotted in Ukraine in a uniform with the insignia of the GRU, or Russian military intelligence.

We can’t confirm where the picture was taken, but the insignia is definitely that of the GRU, the initials for “Main Intelligence Directorate” of the Russian Federation Armed Forces.



This photo was originally taken and published in a tweet by Thomas Groves of Reuters, and sparked a lot of commentary about how easy it is to buy such insignia at any flea market — and that it is out of date.

The Russian online news services indeed reported back in 2002 that the GRU was stripped of its long-time bat symbol.

The bat was said to be replaced by a double-headed black eagle against a black background with arrows and a red carnation in its talons. We haven’t found an example of this new symbol.

Most likely the real, current GRU wouldn’t go around advertising its presence with badges, especially outdated ones, and this separatist fighter could be using either an old badge from past service or merely have bought one.

There have been numerous reports of the GRU present in southeastern
Ukraine, which stands to reason given that Russia has clearly mounted a
military action against Ukraine that is no longer disputed.

Some reports indicate that the separatist leaders could be GRU
agents; Col. Igor Strelkov (Girkin) has been described as working for
the GRU in the sanctions notice about him issued by the European Union,
and Russian journalists have reported his background.

Moscow Says It’s Kiev And Washington Pushing For War

Sure, the Russian convoys have crossed into Ukraine today in violation of every agreement Russia has reached with the international committee, but it’s not Russia’s fault that the war in the east continues — at least, that’s what the Russian Foreign Ministry is saying today:

A quote from the ITAR-TASS article:

On August 21, Russia suggested adopting a UN Security Council Resolution to support the delivery of relief aid to the conflict-hit eastern Ukraine.

“The United States and Lithuania blocked Russia’s constructive initiative. They suggested that calls to end the hostilities and ensure the safe delivery of relief cargo (to the recipients) as well as a reference to the fact that the cargo was sent by the Russian side be excluded from the draft’s text,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said.

“Moreover, the opponents considered that it would be justified to include a provision that blames ‘separatists’ for the current situation in southeast Ukraine: no separatists, no humanitarian problems,” the Russian Foreign Ministry explained.

“If the United States voted against the absolutely non-confrontational and reconciling draft, it means that its aim is to continue the armed confrontation in Ukraine. Its actions cannot be described otherwise than an attempt to ‘sabotage’ the humanitarian mission,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said.

“The duality of this policy is obvious. Cynical disregard for the fates of peaceful civilians and a slapdash attitude to international humanitarian law when geopolitical interests are in question are becoming the core of a policy, which the United States and its European allies are pursuing towards Ukraine,” the Russian Foreign Ministry stressed.

Despite the Russian Foreign Ministry’s statements that Moscow is working to bring peace to eastern Ukraine while Kiev and the West are working to continue the conflict, two things should be noted. The first is that Kiev, with the cooperation of the International Red Cross, have already delivered an aid convoy to Lugansk within the last week. The delivery of that convoy was incident free.

Russia, on the other hand, has been pouring weapons and soldiers across the border and has continued to build an invasion force just kilometers from Ukraine (here’s just yesterday’s evidence of that buildup). In the last week Ukrainian positions have been laced with artillery and mortars which are firing from inside Russian territory. Ukrainian soldiers say that they have orders not to fire back, and are taking heavy losses as a result. Insurgent positions in both Lugansk and Donetsk have been reinforced by fresh units of tanks, armored vehicles, and artillery. This equipment could only have come from Russia. A convoy of more than a dozen military transport vehicles, many towing field guns, have been spotted on the Russian side of the border and then again deep within Ukrainian territory. That convoy was escorted by an armored personnel carrier. Evidence and more evidence surfaced that Infantry Fighting Vehicles crewed by Russian airborne troops have even been captured in eastern Ukraine. 

NATO Says Russia Deploys Artillery Units Against Ukraine

Citing NATO officials, the New York Times reports the Russian military has moved artillery units manned by Russian personnel inside Ukrainian territory.

The West has long accused Russia of supporting the separatist forces in eastern Ukraine, but this is the first time it has said it had evidence of the direct involvement of the Russian military.

The Russian move represents a significant escalation of the Kremlin’s involvement in the fighting there and comes as a convoy of Russian trucks with humanitarian provisions has crossed into Ukrainian territory without Kiev’s permission.

Since mid-August NATO has received multiple reports of the direct involvement of Russian forces, “including Russian airborne, air defense and special operations forces in Eastern Ukraine,” said Oana Lungescu, a spokeswoman for NATO.

“Russian artillery support — both cross-border and from within Ukraine —
is being employed against the Ukrainian armed forces,” she added.

NATO’s full statement is here.

As we reported earlier, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen made an urgent statement expressing growing concern over Russian’s intentions regarding Ukraine, sparked by the developments of the “aid convoy.”

The Interpreter has made repeated reports in recent months of Russian armored vehicles crossing into Ukraine and aiding pro-Russian separatists in the southeast.

Lithuania’s Honorary Consul Kidnapped And Murdered In Lugansk

Linas Linkevicius, the Lithuanian Foreign Minister, has just tweeted that Mykola Zelenec, Lithuania’s honorary consul, has been murdered in Lugansk:

Report of Possible Remains of Missing Russian Photojournalist

A report has been made claiming that the body of Andrei Stenin, a Russian photojournalist missing since August 5, has been found, but no confirmation was made, and a Russian news article published about it today in the state newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda has been deleted.

According to the latest report dated 18:00 Kiev time, August 21 from the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) to Ukraine:

The “deputy minister of interior” of the so-called “Donetsk People’s Republic” (“DPR”) told the SMM that the “DPR” had found a charred body on a road a few kilometres south-east of Snizhne (Snizhne is 80 km south-east of Donetsk city).

He claimed that the remains were those of a missing Russian journalist, but presented no supporting evidence.

The Russian pro-government online news site Russkaya Planeta had an article on the OSCE statement, then an additional report (translation by The Interpreter)

Updated 18:08 (Moscow Time) According to Komsomolskaya Pravda Dmitry Streshin, burnt passenger vehicle on the road from Dmitrovka to Snezhnoye was found two days ago. As Steshn reports, three bodies were found in the automobile, and also the remains of photography equipment. According to his hypotheses, the passengers were shot “from light small ams” and the car burned up from shelling of the area from missile systems which supposedly occurred later.

Russkaya Planeta published a tweet which was subsequently deleted for reasons unknown, saying they had found the remains and called OSCE:


Translation: @kp_steshin We brought a group of forensic experts, they have removed the remains. The forensic experts summoned the OSCE, which in the end put out all the information on the Internet.

Russkaya Planeta then subsequently reported that Steshin and Aleksandr Kots, another war correspondent from Komsomolskaya Pravda (KP) published an article with photos from the scene, “How We Searched for Andrei Stenin,” which was removed from the KP web site after publication, but was found in Google’s cache:

The Interpreter has translated an excerpt:

In the burn-out frame, the silhouette of the most common Renault can be seen. Nearby are craters from explosions of Grad rockets. But the car itself is riddled with automatic rifle and machine gun rounds. We immediately saw the human remains in the burnt-out interior. One was on the passenger seat, one in the driver’s seat and one in the rear. We found one other terrible discovery in the trunk — two professional camera lenses and the ashes of a lens which scattered from the mount…We also found the Renault logo and the Logan label.

“Clean-ups were going on in the area, the Ukrainian army was breaking out of a kettle. I think they stumbled on such a convoy which had turned down the highway and they began shooting it, [LifeNews correspondent] Semyon Pegov told them.

A Renault Logan in which Andrei Stenin was reportedly traveling with his companions. Photo: Aleksandr Kots, Dmitry Steshi


Found near the remains of the auto — burnt-up photo lenses. Photo by Aleksandr Kots, Dmitry Steshin.


Possibly these lenses belonged to Andrei. Photo by Aleksandr Kots, Dmitry Steshin

We do not know why this article and these pictures were removed as there is no explanation. Possibly KP determined that the car and photographic equipment were not confirmed as related to Stenin, or decided to wait for examination of the remains. No other reports of missing photographers are known to have been made.

Stenin went to Ukraine on assignment in May, and had worked in Kiev, Lugansk, Donetsk, and Slavyansk. He was last in contact with colleagues on August 5, and then went missing. He was believed to have been captured by Ukrainian forces, but the Ukrainian government denied they had him and included him in a missing list.

Last week we reported on a series of videos made by a man who appeared to be a Caucasian with a Russian battalion operating in southeastern Ukraine. Among them was a video that showed a number of burnt-out cars found along a road which was geo-located by Ukraine@War as the road from Dmitrovka to Snezhnoya. Ukraine@War has marked them on a map.

We will continue to investigate the story.

Reports Of 8 Wounded Russian Paratroopers Being Treated In Lugansk, a Lugansk-based news site, reports that Nastya Stanko, a journalist for Ukraine’s Hromadske TV, has tweeted that 8 woundedRussian paratroopers from the 76th Pskov Airborne Division (the same unit from which it is claimed a BMD-2 was captured this week) are being treated in a hospital in Lugansk. 

Stanko said (translated by The Interpreter):

“8 paratroopers from Pskov are in a critical condition in the Lugansk regional hospital, they’re not movable. 30 have been sent off to a hospital in Rostov. It’s not known what they were doing here.”

Russian Aid Convoy Flying Illegal Flags And Transporting Fuel Into Ukraine
The International Committee of the Red Cross does not allow nations to fly its flag without permission and has clearly said today that Russia does not have its permission to cross this convoy into Ukraine. And yet…
The Russian propaganda network RT is livestreaming video from the border crossing. As we pointed out earlier, that broadcast abruptly halted (but just a few seconds too late) when a Russian military truck was spotted crossing the border. Now, here’s another interesting observation:
Convoy Reportedly Arrives In Lugansk

The following tweets come from Graham Philips, a freelance reporter who provides content for RT.

The trucks appear to have entered the city from the east, if this church matches the one visible in the photos.


This corresponds with reports earlier that the convoy would head to Lugansk via Nikolaeva

NATO Raises Alarm About Russia’s Intentions In Ukraine

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen has made an urgent statement expressing growing concern over Russia’s intentions in Ukraine, sparked by the developments with the ‘aid convoy.’

I condemn the entry of a Russian so-called humanitarian convoy into Ukrainian territory without the consent of the Ukrainian authorities and without any involvement of the International Committee of the Red Cross. This is a blatant breach of Russia’s international commitments, including those made recently in Berlin and Geneva, and a further violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty by Russia. It can only deepen the crisis in the region, which Russia itself has created and has continued to fuel. The disregard of international humanitarian principles raises further questions about whether the true purpose of the aid convoy is to support civilians or to resupply armed separatists.

These developments are even more worrying as they coincide with a major escalation in Russian military involvement in Eastern Ukraine since mid-August, including the use of Russian forces.  In addition, Russian artillery support – both cross-border and from within Ukraine – is being employed against the Ukrainian armed forces. We have also seen transfers of large quantities of advanced weapons, including tanks, armoured personnel carriers, and artillery to separatist groups in Eastern Ukraine. Moreover, NATO is observing an alarming build-up of Russian ground and air forces in the vicinity of Ukraine.   

Instead of de-escalating the situation, Russia continues to escalate it, despite the efforts of the international community to find a political  solution to the crisis. This can only lead to Russia’s further isolation.  I strongly urge Russia not to take further provocative actions, to stop destabilising Ukraine and to take genuine steps to resolve this dangerous situation with full respect of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and international law.

Amidst Broken Promises And What Kiev Calls An ‘Invasion’ More Russian Armor Spotted Headed Toward Ukraine

There are perhaps no good reasons left to trust the Russian narrative
on Ukraine. Let’s briefly recap some of the reasons to distrust the
Kremlin by only using examples from the last few hours.

Earlier today the Russian ‘aid convoy’ crossed into Ukraine but only after failing to meet any of
conditions agreed upon between Russia and the rest of the international
community, including Ukraine and the International Committee of the Red
Cross. The inspection of the trucks was halted before Ukraine had even inspected a small fraction of the vehicles. The trucks, which Ukraine calls a “direct invasion,” were being driven by men who are likely Russian military drivers, and left Russian soil without an escort from the ICRC. Reporters say that the convoy is being escorted by rebels, however. Now all 200+ trucks have now crossed the border, and only 34 have been inspected.

Russian Foreign Ministry says that they are delivering thousands of
tons of aid to Lugansk. However, evidence compiled last week suggested
that the vehicles were nearly empty
— some carrying perhaps less than 1,000 pounds (maybe far less in some
instances). According to calculations based on the weight of trucks
like these and statements given by the border guards
who did inspect some of the trucks, these vehicles are still very
underweight. Did they pick up extra cargo? If so, where did it come
from, where was it delivered, how, and what kind of cargo is it?
Journalists who have been watching these mostly-parked trucks for more
than a week never reported that there were significant shipments of good
to the area. They did regularly report, however, the constant shuffling
of military equipment and supply trucks in the area of this ‘aid convoy’.

Why would Russia stop the inspections? Why would they not allow the Red Cross to take control of these vehicles? Why would the vehicles be mostly empty (Russia’s explanation makes little sense and contradicts their statements that hundreds of tons of aid are on the move)?

And let’s remember that Russia has alreayd been caught red-handed sending armored vehicles across the border and into Ukraine:

Now there are indications that Russian armor is just moving toward the Izvarino crossing:
And more armor is reportedly on the move further away from the border:
Red Cross Issues Warning On Russian ‘Aid Convoy’
The Red Cross is sending tweets which clearly suggest that it is not supporting, backing, or involved with this Russian ‘aid convoy’ which has now crossed into Ukraine (translations by The Interpreter):
Translation: Our representatives in #Lugansk report heavy night shelling. We did not received sufficient guarantees of security from the warning sides.
Translation: The Russian humanitarian convoy is moving on to the territory of Ukraine. We are not accompanying the convoy due to the instability of the situation with security.
Video Of Convoy Inside Ukraine

Video footage has been uploaded by Anna News which shows the Russian convoy in Ukraine:

The convoy stops and turns back at a separatist checkpoint near the village of Samsonovka, less than 10 km along the M4 highway from Krasnodon to Lugansk. The highway route is reportedly too dangerous due to combat in the area. The narrator suggests that the trucks may instead go to Lugansk via Nikolaevka and the Lugansk-Stanitsa-Luganska highway. 

That route would take back south and then east, past Krasnodon and Ural-Kavkaz, and then north parallel to the Russian border until heading west near Davydo-Mikolskoye.

Reports Suggest Entire Convoy Of Over 200 Trucks Has Entered Ukraine
Ukrainian Foreign Ministry Statement

The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry has issued a statement (in Ukrainian) on the incursion into Ukrainian territory by the Russian aid convoy today. 

Of particular note are claims by the Foreign Ministry that attempts by the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces to make contact with their Russian equivalents have been unsuccessful, and that separatist fighters are shelling the likely route of the convoy.

The full statement has been translated into English by Euromaidan Press:

On August 22 Russia, ignoring established international rules, procedures, and agreements reached, without the consent and accompaniment of the International Committee of the Red Cross began to smuggle humanitarian aid to Ukraine.

Even though the border and customs control services of Ukraine started clearing the Russian convoy, this morning Ukrainian officials had been blocked by Russian forces and prevented from finishing inspecting the remaining vehicles of the convoy, despite previous agreements and having been invited to Russian territory by the Russian side. We are worried about the safety of our employees. Moreover, so far neither the Ukrainian side nor the ICRC knows about the content of the abovementioned vehicles, which causes particular concern.

The fact that Russian cars entered the territory of Ukraine without proper border and customs clearance and that their cargo was not submitted to representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross by established procedures testifies to the deliberate and aggressive actions of the Russian side.

As we have previously emphasized full responsibility for the safety of the cargo is the Russian side. Please note that the Ukrainian side has taken all necessary measures to ensure the security of cargo.

In order to prevent provocations we gave all the necessary instructions for the safe crossing of the convoy. However, attempts to establish contact between the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine and Russia, which is critical to ensure security for the convoy’s route, have failed, despite all attempts from the Ukrainian. Please note that terrorists are shelling the convoy’s possible route with mortars.

We also do not know about agreements made by the Russian side with the Luhansk militants, and we do not exclude the possibility of any planned provocation.

We consider that in this act the Russian Federation once again flagrantly violated the key principles of international law, including inviolability of borders, non-interference in the internal affairs of another state, and conscientious fulfillment of international obligations.

We call on all international partners to join the strong condemnation of illegal and aggressive acts of the Russian Federation.

Ukrainian Foreign Ministry On Today’s Events

The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry has been tweeting responses to the events today, stressing the illegality of Russia’s actions, and the blocking in of Ukrainian border officials inside Russian territory:

Russian Foreign Ministry Statement On Departure Of Aid Convoy

Here is the full statement in English from the Russian Foreign Ministry on the departure of the aid convoy into Ukrainian territory:

The endless delays hampering the initial deliveries of the Russian humanitarian relief aid to southeastern Ukraine have become intolerable.

A lorry convoy with many hundreds of tonnes of humanitarian relief aid, urgently needed by the people in these regions, has been standing idle for a week now on the Russian-Ukrainian border. Over this period, the Russian side has made unprecedented efforts in all areas and at all levels in order to complete the required formalities. We have met all conceivable and inconceivable demands of the Ukrainian side and have submitted to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) exhaustive lists of food, drinking water, medications, essential items and diesel generators due to be delivered to Lugansk, where they are urgently needed by women, children and the elderly. These people are experiencing the horrors of daily artillery attacks and air strikes that have resulted in an increasing number of killed and wounded and destroyed the entire vital infrastructure in the area. Time and again, we met requests to check and recheck the shipment route, to coordinate procedures for the shipment’s delivery, and have signed the required documents with the ICRC. We have provided all essential security guarantees and have ensured similar guarantees on the part of the self-defense forces. These guarantees apply to the Russian convoy as well as other humanitarian relief aid being sent to Lugansk by the Kiev authorities.

At the same time, Kiev has delayed granting its formal consent required by the ICRC for several days, while repeatedly inventing new pretexts and stepping up attacks on Lugansk and Donetsk that involve military aircraft and heavy-duty armored vehicles, targeting residential areas and other civilian facilities. Over the past few days, the Ukrainian side has been launching ballistic missiles, including the deadly Tochka-U missiles, ever more frequently.

On 21 August, the situation appeared to have been resolved when the Ukrainian authorities finally informed the ICRC of their readiness to start clearing humanitarian shipments for prompt delivery to Lugansk. The Ukrainian side officially confirmed its unconditional consent for the convoy to start moving during a phone conversation between the Foreign Affairs Ministers of Russia and Ukraine. On 20 August, customs clearance and border control procedures were launched at the Donetsk checkpoint. On 21 August, however, this process was stopped, with officials citing much more intensive bombardment of Lugansk. In other words, the Ukrainian authorities are bombing the destination and are using this as a pretext to stop the delivery of humanitarian relief aid.

It appears that Kiev has set out to complete its “cleansing” of Lugansk and Donetsk in time for the 24 August Independence Day celebrations. It seems increasingly credible that the incumbent Ukrainian leadership is deliberately delaying the delivery of the humanitarian relief aid until there is nobody left to deliver this aid to. Quite possibly, they hope to achieve this result prior to the planned 26 August meetings in Minsk.

Russia is outraged by the blatant external manipulation of the international experts involved in preparing this operation. An endless succession of contradictory and mutually exclusive signals and messages we have been receiving is a true indication of behind the scenes games for purposes that have nothing to do with accomplishing a set humanitarian objective. Those who are holding the reins and hampering efforts to save human lives, to mitigate the suffering of sick and wounded people neglect the basic principles of society. We have called on the UN Security Council to promptly declare a humanitarian armistice, but these proposals are being invariably blocked by those who pay lip service to universal human values. Last time, this happened on 20 August, when the United States and some Western members of the UNSC declined to issue a statement in support of a ceasefire during the delivery of humanitarian relief aid to Lugansk by Russian and Ukrainian convoys.

We hereby state once again: All the required security guarantees regarding the passage of the humanitarian convoy have been provided. The ICRC has officially recognised these guarantees. The delivery routes are known, and they have been checked by an ICRC mission. The documents have been drawn up. The shipments have long been ready for inspection by Ukrainian border guards and customs officers who have been waiting at the Donetsk checkpoint in the Rostov Region for a week now. The capitals that display heightened concern for the situation in southeastern Ukraine are well aware of this. The endless artificial demands and pretexts have become unconscionable.

It is no longer possible to tolerate this lawlessness, outright lies and inability to reach agreements. All pretexts for delaying the delivery of aid to people in the humanitarian disaster zone have been depleted. The Russian side has decided to act. Our humanitarian relief convoy is setting out towards Lugansk. Naturally, we are ready to allow ICRC officials to escort the convoy and to take part in distributing aid. We hope that representatives of the Russian Red Cross Society will also be able to take part in this mission.

We are warning against any attempts to thwart this purely humanitarian mission which took a long time to prepare in conditions of complete transparency and cooperation with the Ukrainian side and the ICRC. Those who are ready to continue sacrificing human lives to their own ambitions and geopolitical designs and who are rudely trampling on the norms and principles of international humanitarian law will assume complete responsibility for the possible consequences of provocations against the humanitarian relief convoy.

We are once again calling on the Ukrainian leadership, as well as the United States and the European Union, which are exerting their influence on Kiev, to promptly launch negotiations in southeastern Ukraine and start complying with the accords formalised in the 17 April 2014 Geneva Statement by Russia, Ukraine, the United States and the EU on stopping the use of force, mitigating the humanitarian situation and immediately launching nationwide dialogue that would involve all Ukrainian regions.

Ukraine Says Only 34 Of 90 Trucks Were Cleared By Customs

Ukrainska Pravda reports that the State Border Guard Service of Ukraine has announced that, despite initially agreeing to customs inspections, the Russian aid convoy left in contravention of agreements made between Ukrainian border officials and Russia.

They report (translated by The Interpreter):

“From 14:00 until 21:00 (Thursday, August 21) border-customs clearance of the personnel and vehicles of the first part of the humanitarian aid convoy began at the Donetsk crossing checkpoint,” says the agency.

“In total, 34 people and 34 vehicles were processed. The total weight was 268,020 kg. Vehicles were loaded to two thirds of their capacity. The average weight of one vehicle was 8,375 kg. 32 trucks carried food products (buckwheat, rice, sugar and water), 2 trucks carried medical supplies,” report border guards.

“However, the Russian Foreign Ministry has released a statement about the alleged delaying of the customs clearance process by the Ukrainian side, and declared an independent cargo delivery to Lugansk,” says the State Border Guard Service of Ukraine.

At 11:20 the cleared trucks began to move into the territory of Ukraine “unaccompanied by representatives from the ICRC (Red Cross) and ignoring the agreements reached regarding the clearing of cargo.

“Meanwhile, the Ukrainian border and customs team has been blocked in at the Russian Donetsk checkpoint,” stress the agency.

Andrei Lysenko, the spokesman for the Ukrainian National Defence and Security Council (SNBO), has told reporters at a briefing today that more than 90 trucks (note that only 34 passed customs clearance) have set off into Ukrainian territory today.

Lysenko stressed that the responsibility for the security of the convoy in separatist-held territory “lay exclusively with the Russian Federation.” 

SBU Chief – Entry Of Russian Aid Convoy Is A Direct Invasion

Interfax-Ukraine reports that Valentyn Nalyvaichenko, the head of the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU), has said that the entry of the Russian aid convoy is a “direct invasion” of Ukraine.

They report (translated by The Interpreter):

“We qualify this as a direct invasion. Cynically using the cover of the Red Cross, these are military vehicles covered up with documents,” he said to a journalist on Friday in Kiev.

In recent days we have been witness to a carefully planned and dangerous, risky provocation against Ukraine with the brazen and cynical use of the respected international organisation of the Red Cross – the provocation with the so-called humanitarian convoy,” said the head of the SBU.

He noted that more than 30 trucks had “illegally started out” in the direction of Ukrainian territory.

Another Interfax-Ukraine report says that Nalyvaichenko has announced at a briefing today that some of the trucks are in fact to be used as carriers for military supplies for separatist fighters. 

He said that the trucks, which were reportedly only one third filled with humanitarian supplies, will be further loaded with weapons and ammunition, and that these military supplies, along with the food and medicine already loaded, will be delivered directly to separatist fighters.

When asked by reporters what Ukraine’s response would be, Nalyvaichenko responded that (translated by The Interpreter):

“The most important thing to do in response to this provocation, is for Ukraine to do it’s best to inform the Red Cross, lest we, Ukraine be drawn into this provocation by restricting or using force against these so-called aid vehicles…”


Russian Aid Convoy Enters Ukraine

The Russian humanitarian aid convoy, which has been waiting at the border near Izvarino for over a week, has entered Ukraine this morning. Ukraine had demanded that the vehicles be unloaded and the aid handed over to representatives from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) for distribution. However yesterday, it was reported that the ICRC had agreed for the trucks to be driven, following customs inspections, to Lugansk by their original, possibly military, drivers, but with an ICRC escort at all times. 

Today, it was reported that the vehicles had finally crossed the border:

However the Russian-language Twitter account of the ICRC announced today that the organisation would not be accompanying the convoy “due to the unstable security situation.”

Furthermore, Reuters reported that the convoy was in fact being escorted by Russian-backed separatist fighters:

Translation: The trucks are being escorted by a small number of pro-Russian rebels

Interfax-Ukraine reported that a source in the Ukrainian government had told them that the convoy had begun moving without the consent of the Ukrainian government. One of the correspondents reported that 34 trucks had crossed the border.

Writing in The Daily Telegraph, Tom Parfitt translates excerpts from a statement issued today by the Russian Foreign Ministry, which drastically differs in tone from a conciliatory statement issued yesterday which said that an agreement had been reached between Russia, the ICRC and Ukraine. 

Parfitt writes:

“The situation with endless artificial delays to resolving the question of starting delivery of the Russian humanitarian cargo to southeast Ukraine has become intolerable,” said Russia’s foreign ministry in a statement. “All excuses for dragging out the delivery… are exhausted. The Russian side has taken the decision to act. Our column with humanitarian cargo is starting to move in the direction of Lugansk.”

Ukraine had deliberately intensified its bombardment of Luhansk (spelt differently by Ukrainians), the rebel-held city for which the convoy is bound, to provide an excuse to stop the aid being delivered, the ministry also charged. Responsibility for the “possible consequences of a provocation lie with those who are ready to sacrifice human fates to their ambitions and geopolitical intrigues,” it added.

There was no immediate reaction from Kiev. Pro-Russian rebels control the section of border that the trucks are crossing but Ukrainian border guards were sent to inspect the cargo.

An agreement appeared to have been reached over the delivery of the aid on Thursday, but that appears to have broken down.

In the last few minutes, even more confusion has arisen, as there are now reports that the convoy has turned back near the Ukrainian town of Krasnodon, only a short distance inside the border: