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Trucks of a Russian convoy carrying humanitarian aid for Ukraine are parked at the military air base outside Voronezh on Wednesday. Photo: Reuters
Trucks of a Russian convoy carrying humanitarian aid for Ukraine are parked at the military air base outside Voronezh on Wednesday. Photo: Reuters

Ukraine open to Russia aid compromise as own convoys readied

Ukraine says it could allow the aid to enter the country after it was inspected by Ukrainian border guards and foreign monitors

Kiev: Ukraine opened the door to a compromise over an aid convoy from Russia destined for the country’s war-torn east and announced its own plan to send in humanitarian supplies on Thursday.

Ukraine’s government said on Wednesday it would accept the aid due to arrive on hundreds of trucks from Russia if the Red Cross distributes it. Customs and border officers will also have to examine the supplies near a checkpoint into the Luhansk region, where pro-Russian separatists have been battling government troops for months. Ukrainian officials said three convoys of trucks would leave government-controlled areas for the region late Thursday morning.

A decision was taken to accept aid for Luhansk to avoid a full-scale invasion from Russia, Svyatoslav Tsegolko, a spokesman for President Petro Poroshenko, told reporters Wednesday in Kiev. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) would also be involved in checking the cargo that left Moscow 12 August, he said. The Russian foreign ministry, which hasn’t commented on the Ukrainian conditions, said the trucks are still heading for the border.

The dispute over the Russian convoy is stoking tensions and has prompted the US and the European Union to warn the government in Moscow against using aid as a pretext for military intervention. Russia says the supplies are needed to help citizens of Luhansk and Donetsk, where fighting has cut water and power.

Ukrainian plans

Three Ukrainian convoys with more than 60 trucks loaded with food and other emergency supplies were due to depart from Kiev and the cities of Kharkiv and Dnipropetrovsk before noon local time, the government’s press service said by phone. They will head to Starobelsk, in the north of the Luhansk region, arriving in the afternoon, with the aid being passed to the Red Cross to distribute, according to the announcement.

Russia’s Micex share index rose 0.3% at 12:29 pm in Moscow, gaining for a fifth day. The ruble declined 0.1% to 41.5065 against a basket made up of the euro and the dollar.

The Associated Press reported this morning the convoy resumed its journey south after stopping at a military base in the city of Voronezh, about 350 kilometers (220 miles) by road from Luhansk. The convoy is still on its way to the border, foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said by phone, declining to comment on whether the trucks are heading for rebel-held territory.

Awaiting information

While Russia says the convoy is working under the auspices of the International Committee of the Red Cross, the Geneva- based organization has said it’s awaiting information on what’s being shipped.

Ukrainian interior minister Arsen Avakov said earlier Wednesday on his Facebook page that the Russian convoy wouldn’t be allowed to enter, calling it a provocation by a cynical aggressor. The government in Kiev blames the insurgency on Putin, who denies the allegation.

Russia said on Wednesday the aid supplies were agreed with its neighbour and that there’s no ulterior motive for the shipments.

There continue to be absurd claims that the humanitarian- aid convoy for the civilian population in southeast Ukraine could be used as a pretext for a Russian ‘armed invasion’ into a neighboring state, the foreign ministry said on its website.

‘Don’t Know’

US state department spokeswoman Marie Harf said on Wednesday that we don’t know what’s in the trucks.

Meanwhile, fighting continued in Ukraine’s east, where government forces are tightening a noose around militant strongholds. The death toll from the fighting, which began after Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula in March, doubled in the past two weeks to more than 2,000, Agence France-Presse reported on Wednesday, citing United Nations data.

One person was killed and 11 wounded overnight near Donetsk, the city council said on its website today.

The military has urged civilians to leave Donetsk and Luhansk as it seeks to complete an encirclement that would shut routes to the Russian border and sever separatist supply lines. About half of the cities’ 1.5 million residents have fled, while most shops are closed.

Yalta address

President Vladimir Putin, who is facing increasingly stiff economic sanctions over Russia’s role in the conflict, is due to address lawmakers in the Crimean city of Yalta on Thursday.

The Russian leader may meet Poroshenko this month, Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev said on Wednesday on his website. Nazarbayev, who spoke with Putin by phone, said he may also take part in the meeting, along with Belarus President Aleksandr Lukashenko.

In another development, the US Treasury broadened the scope of sanctions against Russia by revising a rule on the ownership of entities by targeted individuals.

Wednesday’s change means that a firm can be sanctioned if any combination of sanctioned individuals collectively owns at least 50% of it. That would appear to ensnare OAO Sogaz Insurance Group, which is more than 50% owned by the combination of OAO Bank Rossiya and Volga Group. BLOOMBERG

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