Kiev has said the humanitarian aid might be used as cover for a
Russian military intervention, and has insisted that its forces
check the convoy before it moves across the border.
Moscow has denied any ulterior motives, but has allowed Ukrainian
border guards to enter Russia and look at the caravan of trucks in
an area opposite the frontier town of Izvaryne.
"Ukrainian border guards are there already in large numbers," border
guard spokesman Andriy Demchenko said. The Ukrainian military said
the inspection began on Friday morning, but it was not clear how
long the process might take.
On Thursday, the convoy of some 280 trucks stopped in open fields
near the Russian town of Kamensk-Shakhtinsky, about 20 km (12 miles)
from the border in front of Izvaryne, which is under the control of
Apart from the trucks, a Reuters reporter at the scene saw a dozen
armoured personnel carriers (APCs) on the move not far from the
convoy. Another Reuters reporter saw two dozen APCs moving near the
border with Ukraine on Thursday night.
The Guardian reported on Friday that its reporter had seen several
APCs crossing the border with Ukraine. (bit.ly/1pbRpYg)
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
Kiev and NATO have said they fear Russia, which they say has massed
more than 40,000 troops near the border, will invade east Ukraine.
Russia says it is conducting military exercises and has no plans to
invade. It also denies supporting rebels in eastern Ukraine with
arms and funds.
The United States and the European Union have imposed sanctions on
Russia over its role in east Ukraine and the earlier annexation of
Ukraine's region of Crimea, in what has become the worst crisis in
relations between Moscow and the West since the Cold War.
[to top of second column]
Relief agencies say people living in Luhansk and in Donetsk, where
pro-Moscow separatists are fighting government forces, face
shortages of water, food and electricity after four months of
conflict, in which the United Nations says more than 2,000 have been
Russia says its convoy is carrying 2,000 tonnes of water, baby food
and other aid for people in the region, and has dismissed
accusations by Kiev and some Western officials that it could be a
cover for a military infiltration.
Kiev has said if the humanitarian convoy enters Ukraine without the
consent of the authorities, the Ukrainian government will view that
as an illegal incursion.
However, it appeared likely that a deal could be brokered.
Russia's foreign ministry said it was in intensive talks with the
Ukrainian government and the Red Cross, while the Ukrainian foreign
ministry said technical agreements had been reached about procedures
for inspecting the convoy under the supervision of the Organisation
for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the Red Cross.
Kiev blames Russia and the separatists for the plight of the
civilians, but their situation has grown more acute as the Ukrainian
military has pressed its offensive - including in areas where
Artillery shells hit close to the centre of Ukraine's
separatist-held city of Donetsk for the first time on Thursday.
(Additional reporting by Natalia Zinets in Kiev; Writing by Dmitry
Zhdannikov and Richard Balmforth)
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