Russia claims that their aid convoy has nothing but humanitarian motivations, while Ukraine had until today kept them sidelined on the other side of the border. The trucks went on the move today, rolling through the border in what Ukraine called “a direct invasion,” accusing Russia of using military personnel to drive and accompany the convoy. The International Committee of the Red Cross, which Moscow initially claimed as a partner in the aid delivery, completely disavowed the move:
Russia began sending in its lorries, stranded at the border for more than a week, after formally accusing Ukraine of unreasonable obstruction.
Valentyn Nalyvaychenko, head of Ukraine’s SBU security service, said it was a “direct invasion”.
The aid is destined for civilians in the east Ukraine war zone.
Reports suggest the lorries are being escorted by rebel fighters.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said it was not part of the convoy “in any way”.
Curiously, though, Ukrainian authorities seemed to have been prepared to let the trucks through. Before Russia ordered the trucks to cross the border, CNN reported from Kyiv that their border guards had started their “final inspection” to grant approval to come into Ukraine:
So what happened? Did Russia jump the gun just over frustration over a ten-day standoff and a final few hours for inspections? The Washington Post offers more scrutiny about Russian motives:
The decision to send in the aid without the consent of the Red Cross or Ukrainian authorities marked a dangerous new step in the four-month conflict. If Ukrainian forces fire on the trucks, they could trigger an all-out invasion by Russian forces that have accumulated by the tens of thousands across the border from eastern Ukraine. If they allow the trucks to disperse across the Luhansk region without any Ukrainian controls, Russia in effect will have imposed a cease-fire in the fight against pro-Russian separatists without Kiev’s permission.
Ukrainian authorities appeared to be scrambling Friday to decide how to respond to the border incursion. A Ukrainian military spokesman backed away from previous bellicose statements, but state security chief Valentyn Nalivaychenko told journalists in Kiev, “We consider this a direct invasion by Russia of Ukraine,” Reuters news agency reported. He said Ukrainian forces would not use force against the convoy because they want to avoid “provocations.”
“We underline that responsibility for the secure movement of Russian trucks through territory that is not under control of Ukrainian armed forces is the responsibility of the Russian Federation,” Ukrainian military spokesman Andriy Lysenko told a briefing in Kiev. He said that 34 Russian trucks had entered Ukraine without the government’s permission and that an additional 90 appeared to be readying to do so.
After the trucks crossed the border, Lysenko said, “the Ukrainian side suggested holding negotiations between the leadership of the general staffs of Ukraine and the Russian Federation, but the Russian side refused.”
Russia tried a direct invasion last week in what appeared to be an attempt to start a shooting war. Although Russia later denied it, at first they confirmed the incursion, but didn’t follow up with military action when it came under Ukrainian fire. Prior to that, I warned that the aid convoy could be used to force the Ukrainian military into a unilateral cease-fire to prevent any Russian retaliation for convoy losses in potential firefights, and that seems to be at least one of the motives for running through the border now. Otherwise, why not wait for the inspections?
CNN noted that the people in Luhansk want humanitarian aid, but what they want most is an end to the fighting:
Zhanna Sologub doesn’t know if the rocket that struck the courtyard of her house this month was fired by pro-Russian rebels or Ukrainian government forces.
What she does know, she says, is that the biggest humanitarian gesture either side could make right now is to stop the fighting.
Amid intensifying battles Friday for control of key cities in eastern Ukraine, Ukraine and Russia are clashing over the delivery of food, medicine and other supplies to areas hit by the conflict. But aid, some residents say, is not as critical as peace.
“People are able to survive even without electricity and water,” Sologub said as she lay bandaged in a hospital in this government-held village eight miles from Luhansk, a Ukrainian city close to the Russian border that has seen some of the worst combat of the four-month conflict. “But you can’t prepare yourself for bombing.”
Until the rebellion gets settled one way or the other, peace will not be forthcoming. The aid convoy only delays that resolution if Russia plans to use it as a barricade for the rebels, or as a beachhead for an occupation.