A Russian convoy, carrying what Moscow says is humanitarian aid, has resumed its journey toward war-torn eastern Ukraine.
The convoy of nearly 300 trucks left the southwestern Russian town of Voronezh Thursday, where it had stalled as controversy swirled about its contents and its final destination.
Moscow insists it coordinated the dispatch of the humanitarian aid with the international Red Cross (ICRC), but on Wednesday representatives of the ICRC said they were still in the dark about the final destination of the convoy.
The Kyiv government, which accuses Russia of arming and otherwise supporting the rebellion in eastern Ukraine, has repeatedly voiced suspicions that Moscow is using the convoy as a pretext for a full-scale invasion. Moscow on Wednesday called the accusation “absurd.”
Earlier this week, Ukraine officials said the Russian goods could be allowed entry if they were inspected by the International Red Cross first. Kyiv also has said the convoy could transfer its cargo at the border to trucks leased by the relief agency.
However, the Red Cross said Wednesday it was still awaiting a detailed inventory of the shipment before it will take custody of the goods.
International relief officials say much of eastern Ukraine, including the hub cities of Donetsk and Luhansk, lack medical supplies, water and electricity, as Ukrainian government forces press their offensive aimed at ending the rebellion by pro-Russian separatists.
The United Nations human rights office said Wednesday that the death toll from the fighting in eastern Ukraine, which began in mid-April, appears to have doubled in the last two weeks, climbing to nearly 2,100 fatalities as of August 10.
Separately, Russian President Vladimir Putin arrived Wednesday in Crimea, the Black Sea peninsula Russia seized and annexed from Ukraine in March.
(Screenshot of convoy from Russia’s Pervyi Kanal via The Kyiv Post)