A convoy of 280 white-painted trucks headed from Russia toward Ukraine is being met with suspicion. Russia says the trucks are bringing 2,000 tons of humanitarian aid to an area that’s been torn by fighting. But Ukrainian leaders worry the convoy might conceal a military operation.
The trucks are due to arrive at the border with eastern Ukraine Wednesday. Their cargo includes “62 tons of baby food, 54 tons of medication and 12,000 sleeping bags, among other things,” according to Russian state news agency Ria Novosti.
The items were collected by residents of Moscow and the surrounding area, according to the state-run Itar-Tass news agency.
But according to Bloomberg News, “Ukrainian military spokesman Andriy Lysenko said the convoy was carrying military gear in the guise of aid,” and the shipment won’t be accepted this week.
From Moscow, Karoun Demirjian reports for NPR:
“A Ukrainian military spokesman says the convoy is not internationally certified by the Red Cross and will not be allowed to cross the border. Red Cross officials say they have no knowledge of the mission.
“The military spokesman adds no aid will be allowed into Ukraine for at least a week, until the Red Cross can establish the region’s needs. Ukraine has been locked in heavy fighting with pro-Russian separatist since April. Some 1,300 people have died in the violence.
“Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko has agreed to let the Red Cross organize Russian and European aid shipments to Luhansk, which has seen some of the heaviest fighting between government troops and separatists.
“Still, Ukraine and its allies have expressed serious concerns that Russia will use a humanitarian mission as a pretext to invade Ukraine.”