The first lorries from a Russian aid convoy, stuck for almost a week at the Ukrainian border, have passed a checkpoint on their way to deliver what Moscow says are humanitarian supplies to civilians.
The International Committee of the Red Cross is overseeing the operation with the vehicles now said to be in ‘no man’s land’ at the border, undergoing customs checks.
Rebels and troops are being urged to ensure the safety of the convoy and its escort.
“The ICRC reminds all parties that under international humanitarian law the parties to the conflict must respect and protect humanitarian relief personnel, in particular those displaying the Red Cross emblem,” Laurent Corbaz, the head of European and Central Asian operations for the ICRC, told reporters at a news conference in Moscow.
The aid is intended to alleviate a humanitarian crisis in the city of Luhansk, one of two big cities in Ukraine’s east which is being held by pro-Russian separatist rebels. The other is Donetsk, the region’s main industrial hub.
Ukraine fears the convoy of over 260 vehicles carrying water, food and medicines could be used as a ‘Trojan Horse’ to supply military equipment to the rebels – a notion Moscow has dismissed as absurd.