Russian aid convoy
© RIA Novosti / Maksim Blinov
Trucks of a Russian convoy carrying humanitarian aid for Ukraine, August, 22, 2014
Several dozen trucks in the Russian humanitarian convoy have crossed the Ukrainian border and started moving in the direction of Lugansk, after Moscow ordered the convoy to proceed, without waiting for further permission from Kiev.

Moscow has accused Kiev of deliberately holding up the delivery of Russian humanitarian aid to the Donetsk and Lugansk regions in eastern Ukraine, according to a new statement by the Russian Foreign Ministry.

"Our convoy with humanitarian aid is starting to move in the direction of Lugansk," the Foreign Ministry's statement reads. "We are of course ready for it to be accompanied by Red Cross representatives and for their participation in the aid's distribution."

A third of the Russian humanitarian convoy, which is around 90 trucks, has now reportedly crossed the border with Ukraine.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is not escorting the convoy.

"That's because of the problems with security," Galina Balzamova of the ICRC told RT. "Lugansk was shelled all night long. We believe we did not get sufficient guarantees of safety from all the parties to the conflict to start escorting the convoy."

The head of the Russian Red Cross, Raisa Lukutsova, has said the organization supported the decision to get the humanitarian convoy moving.

"The fact that the humanitarian mission has started - this has probably been the right decision," Lukutsova said. "For how long do we have to put up with this mockery? They put forward one demand after another. All of them unrealistic."

She added the Russian Red Cross is ready to escort the humanitarian convoy and has appealed to the ICRC for permission to do so.

ICRC, meanwhile, confirms that people in areas affected by the ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine are in "urgent need for essentials like food and medical supplies."

The crisis is particularly acute in Lugansk, where people have gone for weeks without water and electricity and have to queue every day for whatever scarce food supplies are brought to the city.

RT's Maria Finoshina has spoken to Lugansk residents, who fear hunger is the reality they are about to face.


Ukraine's intelligence (SBU) chief, Valentyn Nalivaychenko, has described the convoy crossing the Russian border as a "direct invasion."

"We call it a direct invasion," Nalivaichenko told journalists. "Under the cynical cover of the Red Cross these are military vehicles with documents to cover them up."

The Ukrainian Border Service has said that by ordering the convoy to proceed Moscow has "ignored the agreements reached on registering the humanitarian load."

"The trucks started moving through Ukraine, after a group of Ukrainian border customs' officers had been blocked at the Russian check-point 'Donetsk'," a statement by the Ukrainian Border Service reads.

The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry has accused Moscow of "smuggling humanitarian aid to Ukraine" and said it had to allow the convoy to pass.

"To avoid provocations we have given all the necessary orders to let the convoy pass safely," the ministry's statement says.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said the "excuses" for delaying the aid from entering Ukraine have been "exhausted".

Local residents in Donetsk under shelling
© Reuters / Sergei Karpukhin
Local residents stand near buildings damaged during shelling on the outskirts of the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk August 3, 2014.
Ukraine agreed to let the convoy pass during an August 20 phone call between the Russian and Ukrainian foreign ministers. That gave a start to customs procedures for checking and registering the contents of the trucks comprising the convoy.

The next day the process was stopped by Ukraine, citing intensified shelling of Lugansk.

"In other words Ukrainian authorities are bombing the place of the aid's point of destination and cite this as a reason for banning delivery of the aid," the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

A convoy of 280 Kamaz trucks carrying food, medicines and other essentials for Lugansk and Donetsk in eastern Ukraine left the Moscow region on August 12.

It has been stuck at the border with Ukraine for more than a week.

"There's a feeling that the current Ukrainian authorities have been consciously putting the humanitarian aid delivery on hold to arrive at a situation where there'll be just no one left to get it," the Ministry's statement reads.