Kiev says Russia has invaded as 'aid' trucks cross border

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 23 August, 2014, 1:20am
UPDATED : Saturday, 23 August, 2014, 1:20am

Ukraine declared yesterday that Russia had launched a "direct invasion" of its territory after Moscow - frustrated by delays - sent a convoy of 130 aid trucks across the border into eastern Ukraine where pro-Russian rebels are fighting government forces.

Moscow, which has thousands of troops close to the Russian side of the border, warned against any attempt to "disrupt" the convoy, which it said was a purely humanitarian operation; it did not say what action it might take if Ukraine's armed forces intervened. The European Union urged Russia to reverse what it called a clear violation of the Ukrainian border.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko described the entry of the trucks without Kiev's permission as a "flagrant violation of international law".

However, a senior security chief said Ukrainian forces would not attack the trucks, and had allowed them in, even without proper clearance, to avoid "provocations".

The Ukraine conflict has driven relations between Moscow and the West to their lowest level since the cold war, with Western states imposing economic sanctions on Moscow and the Kremlin retaliating.

Nato has deployed extra troops in member states bordering Russia, including the Baltic states and Poland.

Kiev called on international allies to unite in "a decisive condemnation of illegal and aggressive actions" by Russia.

Poroshenko said more than 100 trucks had crossed the border, of which only some had been checked earlier by Ukrainian officials inside Russian territory. Some officials said only 34 of the trucks had been checked.

Repeating earlier suspicions by Kiev that the aid cargo could be used somehow to support the separatists, the foreign ministry said: "Neither the Ukrainian side nor the International Committee of the Red Cross knows the content of the trucks. This arouses special concern."

It said the fact that Russian vehicles had crossed into Ukraine without permission "testifies to the deliberate and aggressive character of actions by the Russian side".

Ukrainian state security chief Valentin Nalivaychenko said: "We consider this a direct invasion by Russia of Ukraine."

However, he said Ukraine would not use air strikes against the convoy.

Moscow, which denies giving military support to the rebellion, had expressed impatience with delays to the convoy.

"All excuses to delay sending aid have been exhausted," the Russian foreign ministry said.

"The Russian side has taken the decision to act. We warn against any attempts to disrupt this purely humanitarian mission ... Responsibility ... will lie, completely and entirely, with those who are prepared to further sacrifice human lives for the sake of their ambitions and geopolitical ploys."