Ukraine agrees to Red Cross-led aid mission

2014-08-11 22:19
A building damaged by shelling is seen in Mikolaivka village, near the city of Slovyansk, Donetsk Region, eastern Ukraine. (Dmitry Lovetsky, AP)

A building damaged by shelling is seen in Mikolaivka village, near the city of Slovyansk, Donetsk Region, eastern Ukraine. (Dmitry Lovetsky, AP)

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Donetsk - The Red Cross will lead an international humanitarian aid operation with Russia and the European Union into the rebel-held city of Luhansk - a plan that Ukraine says has the backing of President Barack Obama.

The Kremlin earlier announced that it was dispatching the humanitarian convoy into eastern Ukraine.

Ukraine had previously objected to Russia sending any aid into the region, and the West had strongly warned Russia that any attempt to send its military personnel into Ukraine under the guise of humanitarian assistance would be seen as an invasion.

In the last week, Ukrainian government forces have been closing in on the few remaining pro-Russian rebel strongholds in eastern Ukraine, including surrounding Donetsk, the largest city in rebel-held city. Hundreds of thousands have been fleeing the fighting.

Shortly after the Kremlin statement, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko got on a phone call with President Barack Obama, according to their offices.

Ukraine and the West have accused Russia of supplying heavy weapons and other equipment to the rebels in eastern Ukraine, a charge that Russia denies.

The Kremlin statement came after a telephone call between Russian President Vladimir Putin and European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso. It didn't say when the convoy would leave or provide other details.

Barroso's office said he warned Russia "against any unilateral military actions in Ukraine, under any pretext, including humanitarian".

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Russia has agreed on details of a humanitarian mission with the Ukrainian leadership.

"I hope that our Western partners will not put a spanner in the works," he said.

Lavrov said that the Ukrainian military action in the east looks like an attempt to "raze it to the ground to force the Russians to leave and settle it with others who would have a different attitude to our nations' history, culture, friendship and links that have existed for centuries."

Barroso also talked to Poroshenko, emphasizing "the EU's readiness to increase its support to the Ukrainian government-led humanitarian response efforts as well as to international humanitarian organisations."

Read more on:    russia  |  ukraine

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