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Hopes of an end to frontier face-off on Ukraine-Russia border

Hopes of an end to frontier face-off on Ukraine-Russia border
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The Red Cross says there is a preliminary agreement between Moscow and Kyiv on a Russian humanitarian aid delivery into the east of Ukraine.

Ukraine said its border guards and customs officials, alongside Red Cross representatives, were checking the cargo in more than 250 military vehicles, which were parked up near the border between the two countries.

As it appeared the tensions over the shipment were easing, Laurent Corbaz, the Head of Operations for Europe and Central Asia for the International Committee of the Red Cross said that the proposal is that the trucks would be allowed to enter Ukraine with just one driver in each and without any Russian military escort.

Moscow said the convoy’s destination is the main stronghold of pro-Russian separatists fighting Ukrainian government forces, where many people are without food and water.

Kyiv had said it feared the humanitarian aid might be used as cover for a Russian military intervention, which Moscow dismissed.

Finland’s president talks of truce hopes

Finnish President Sauli Niinisto said he hoped that the agreement for the Russian humanitarian aid delivery to eastern Ukraine would pave the way for a ceasefire between the government and pro-Russian rebels there.

Speaking after meeting President Vladimir Putin at the Russian leader’s residence in Sochi, Niinisto said he was planning to fly to Kyiv and discuss the crisis with Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko.

Ukrainian aid convoy

Also on Friday, a Ukrainian government convoy reached the Luhansk region from the other direction and aid – mostly food – has been unloaded for distribution to those locals who have not fled the fighting.

Red Cross delegate Peter Huber said: “We have already determined some people who need this aid, and we plan to distribute it among those who need it. But I can’t say now where exactly the aid will be sent and who will get it.”

From whatever source, it seems some hard pressed Eastern Ukrainians are close to getting some relief.

Incursion explanation demanded

However, tension in the area remains high as journalists on the ground reported seeing Russian armoured vehicles in the area, with some crossing over to the Ukrainian side of the border overnight between Thursday and Friday.

Asked about the report, a Ukrainian military spokesman, Oleksiy Dmytrashkivsky, said: “These movements into Ukrainian territory take place practically every day with the aim of provoking (the Ukrainian side). Last night was no exception. Some armoured vehicles came across. We are checking on the quantity and the number of people who came over.”

NATO has accused the Kremlin of escalating the conflict in Ukraine, following those reports.

Britain summoned Russia’s ambassador on Friday to clarify reports of a Russian military incursion into Ukraine and a build-up of equipment near the border, the Foreign Office said.