MOSCOW, August 22 (RIA Novosti) - Ukrainian border guards have begun inspecting the Russian humanitarian convoy with tons of food, medicine and other basic necessities for the people of Donbas.
On Thursday, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) confirmed that it had received all the guarantees for the safe passage of the convoy through the Luhansk region. Later the same day, after long negotiations, Kiev finally recognized the cargo as humanitarian aid, and the first trucks began to cross the border. The convoy is expected to move to Luhansk on Friday.
Earlier in August, in light of the worsening humanitarian situation in Ukraine, Russia suggested sending an international humanitarian mission to eastern Ukraine under the auspices of the ICRC.
The convoy comprises 280 trucks carrying about 2,000 tons of humanitarian aid, including baby food, medication, grain, sugar, sleeping bags and other necessities. It set off from the Moscow Region on August 12 heading toward Ukraine’s conflict areas.
On Thursday, Kiev reiterated that the ICRC had not provided the necessary guarantees for the safe passage of humanitarian convoy in Ukraine. Andriy Lysenko, Ukraine's National Security Council spokesman said that Kiev had not received all the necessary customs clearance documents. At the same time, Moscow confirmed on Wednesday that "all the preparatory work necessary for carrying out this important humanitarian mission has been completed." The ICRC experts, who came back from Luhansk, said that they had received guarantees for the safe passage of the convoy.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) regrets that the Ukrainian customs service’s failure to inspect the Russian humanitarian cargo in time has delayed the humanitarian mission, an official representative said on Thursday.
"ICRC regrets that customs inspection as agreed between Russian Federation and Ukrainian sides were delayed by the Ukrainian authorities yesterday," the ICRC Head of Operations for Europe and Central Asia Laurent Corbaz said. Ten minutes before the statement, it was reported that the Ukrainian customs at the Donetsk-Izvarino checkpoint in the Rostov region had begun inspecting the first trucks with the aid. The ICRC said it hoped that the convoy would able to proceed to Luhansk on Friday.
The Russian Foreign Ministry welcomed the start of Ukrainian customs checks for Russian humanitarian cargo, according to Maria Zakharova, deputy head of the ministry’s information and press department.
“Finally, we have reasons to hope that this series of weird, strange and inhumane actions, related to the humanitarian cargo delivery to southeastern Ukraine, would eventually stop,” Zakharova told the Rossiiskaya Sluzhba Novostei (Russian News Service) radio station.
At the same time, Moscow called on all parties concerned to prevent any disruptions in the delivery of Russian humanitarian cargo to eastern Ukraine. The ministry also expressed "gratitude to the leadership and staff of the ICRC for effective cooperation."
"Russia confirms firm security guarantees for the ongoing mission. Similar guarantees are known to have been provided by the Ukrainian authorities and the independence supporters as well," according to the statement.
On Thursday, Moscow called on the UN Security Council to make a statement about the need of a ceasefire in Ukraine during the delivery of Russian humanitarian aid. Kiev said in response that the ceasefire is possible in eastern Ukraine, but it should be based on Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko’s peace plan.
“We expect the [August 26] meeting in Minsk to produce results, and the Ukrainian president’s peace plan remains viable. If the terrorists agree to this plan, then this war will be over even before the meeting,” the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine spokesman Andriy Lysenko said.
The Russian Defense Ministry reiterated Thursday it was not using the humanitarian aid convoy as a pretext for a military incursion into Ukraine, the ministry’s press department said in a statement.
“Russian Deputy Defense Minister [Anatoly Antonov] refuted speculations by certain European states and NATO about Russia’s alleged plans of a military incursion into Ukraine ‘under the guise of a humanitarian operation’,” the ministry said in a statement to comment on the results of Antonov’s meeting with Laurent Corbaz, the Red Cross head of operations for Europe and Central Asia.
Numerous checks of the Russian humanitarian cargo failed to detect any unregistered cargo, the statement reads.