Moscow/Kiev: Russia plans to send a second convoy loaded with humanitarian aid to Ukraine, foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said, after the first delivery sparked international condemnation by crossing the border without authorization.
Russia has informed Ukraine of plans to dispatch another column of trucks this week, with the convoy taking the same route through rebel-held territory as the tractor-trailers that returned to Russia two days ago, Lavrov told reporters in Moscow on Monday.
US and the European Union condemned the decision to send the first convoy of about 280 trucks, which the government in Kiev called an invasion.
“We want to coordinate our actions with Ukrainian authorities, which are also planning to send additional humanitarian aid to the southeast," Lavrov said. “We’ll work on ensuring security guarantees from the side of the militias."
The government in Moscow is manoeuvring to avoid the border standoff and uproar that marred its first convoy last week. The leaders of Russia and Ukraine will meet on Tuesday for the first time in more than two months in the Belarusian capital of Minsk as the insurgency in the regions of Luhansk and Donetsk shows no signs of abating.
Tensions continued to spike in the border areas, with the Ukrainian military saying that Russians disguised as insurgents tried to infiltrate the country and a column of armoured vehicles crossed the frontier. Government troops engaged rebels 39 times in the past day as clashes left four soldiers killed and 31 wounded, Ukrainian military spokesman Andriy Lysenko told reporters in Kiev on Monday.
Border troops stopped the advance of the armoured column into Ukraine from Russia, blocking the main roads as it tried to move toward the port city of Mariupol in the southern Donetsk region, according to a statement.
Lavrov said he had no information about the incident and accused Ukraine of providing a lot of disinformation about our invasions.
Ukraine has said there’s a buildup of Russian military equipment along its border. Ukraine has been fractured by fighting that the United Nations says has left at least 2,000 dead since Russia annexed Crimea in March.
Celebrating the 23rd anniversary of independence from the Soviet Union on Sunday, soldiers, armoured vehicles and missile launchers passed down the main Khreshchatyk thoroughfare in the Ukrainian capital on Sunday, with some sent to the frontline from the parade. Insurgents in Donetsk countered by forcing captured Ukrainian soldiers to walk through the city centre at gunpoint and displaying incinerated hardware lost by government troops.
Speaking at the parade in Kiev, President Petro Poroshenko announced a military spending increase, pledging to allocate more than 40 billion hryvnia ($3 billion) in 2015-2017.
“Unfortunately, there will always be a military threat to Ukraine," Poroshenko said. “War has come from the side nobody expected."
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who met Poroshenko in Kiev two days ago, said a breakthrough is unlikely at talks between him and Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday. Lavrov said the talks will focus on economic ties, the humanitarian crisis and the prospects for a political resolution in Ukraine.
“The meeting won’t bring about one big breakthrough though you have to talk with each other if you want to find solutions," Merkel said in an interview with Germany’s ARD television on Sunday. Bloomberg