Russia-sponsored humanitarian convoy to enter Ukraine

A humanitarian aid operation led by the Red Cross will enter Eastern Ukraine impoverished and war-torn province of Luthansk this week. The operation, which is ostensibly headed up by the Red Cross and backed by Russia, the United States and the European Union, had previously been categorically denied by the Ukrainian government, which perceived it to be a measure taken to “test the waters” in Ukraine, possibly even preceding a Russian military invasion.  The existence of Western support from the convoy still does not rule out the possibility of a Russian invasion. The Kremlin has amassed nearly 45,000 troops along the Ukrainian border, along with heavy artillery, tanks and a slew of other armored vehicles that could be used to launch an overland invasion.

The Ukrainian government, in approving the convoy, has moved quickly to clarify that the humanitarian mission has been approved by Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and that Russia’s involvement is only incidental, as one of the members of a larger international convoy. Luthansk, the ultimate destination for the Red Cross-sponsored mission, has seen some of the fiercest fighting between armed separatists and the Ukrainian military. More than 150,000 of the previous inhabitants have fled the city, and those that remain have been without electricity, water and other basic necessities for more than one week. The city’s supplies of food, medicine and fuel have similarly been cut, and little in the way of civil society restoration has been undertaken by the Ukrainian military, which seems to be acting with the singular focus of driving the rebel forces out at any cost. European and American leaders have warned that any “unilateral military actions in Ukraine” taken by Russia will not be tolerated, including under humanitarian pretexts.

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