Kiev fears military motives and French President Hollande voices concern over Moscow plan to send humanitarian aid to rebel-held areas in east
KIEV, Ukraine / PARIS - Ukrainian officials said on Tuesday they would not allow Russia to send a humanitarian aid convoy to Ukraine’s east.
However, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov reportedly said later Tuesday that Kiev had given the go-ahead for the convoy.
Russia plans to send the aid in cooperation with the International Red Cross into eastern Ukraine, according to a written statement from the Kremlin on Monday.
Kiev is concerned that the Russian plan could be a pretext for a military operation.
The EU started an aid campaign in the region controlled by pro-Russia separatists, where the civilian population is facing severe shortages as government forces encircle rebel fighters. The campaign is coordinated by the Red Cross after Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko approved it in a phone talk with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso on Monday.
Valery Chaly, the deputy head of the Ukraine Presidential Administration, said Tuesday that Russia's aid convoy would not be allowed in Ukraine and the goods will be loaded to transportation vehicles provided by the International Red Cross.
Meanwhile, Andre Loersch, a spokesman of the Red Cross mission in Ukraine, said that they had yet to receive a list of aid items from Russia, a procedure mandatory for the convoy to move ahead.
On Tuesday, French President Francois Hollande announced that he expressed to his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin his “grave concerns” over the aid plan.
Hollande said that a "humanitarian operation could only take place on Ukrainian territory if national Ukrainian authorities gave their consent, both in terms of the format of the mission and on how it would be carried out."
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius warned earlier on Tuesday that Russia might be trying to use the convoy as a "cover" to set up a base near Donetsk and Lugansk with this mission.
Unrest in eastern Ukraine has torn the region apart since April, when the government launched "anti-terror" operations against armed separatists seeking to break away from Ukraine following the annexation of Crimea into Russia in March.
Russia faced a first wave of sanctions over the move in March.
Another wave followed after the downing of a Malaysian airliner on July 17, in which all 298 passengers and crew members onboard died.
Russia has responded to Western sanctions by applying a year-long ban on imports of food such as beef, pork, poultry, fish, cheese, milk and vegetables from sanctions-imposing countries.
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