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Merkel Visits Kyiv for Crisis Talks; Russian Aid Convoy Leaves

  • Trucks from a convoy that delivered humanitarian aid for Ukraine are seen inside border crossing point "Donetsk" in Russia's Rostov Region as they move back to Russia, Aug. 23, 2014.
  • Trucks from a convoy that delivered humanitarian aid for Ukraine move back to Russia at border crossing point "Donetsk" in Russia's Rostov Region, Aug. 23, 2014.
  • A Russian border guard opens a gate in front of a truck from a convoy that delivered humanitarian aid for Ukraine on its return to Russia at border crossing point "Donetsk" in Russia's Rostov Region, Aug. 23, 2014.
  • People stand in line to cross the border onto Ukrainian territory as a truck from a convoy that delivered humanitarian aid for Ukraine moves back to Russia at border crossing point "Donetsk" in Russia's Rostov Region, Aug. 23, 2014.
  • People walk from the territory of Ukraine to cross the Russian border at border crossing point "Donetsk" in Russia's Rostov Region, Aug. 23, 2014.
  • Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko (R) meets with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Kyiv, Aug. 23, 2014.
Gabe Joselow

Western monitors say the Russian aid convoy that crossed into Ukraine Friday has gone back to Russia, easing international tensions as German Chancellor Angela Merkel arrived in Ukraine's capital voicing renewed hopes for peace.

More than 200 white trucks left Ukraine Saturday, after making a stop in the city of Luhansk, which is occupied by pro-Russian separatists.

The unauthorized Russian convoy rankled officials in Ukraine, who said they were only able to inspect a few of the trucks before their crossing, and insisted that any Russian-donated aid be distributed by the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Merkel in Kyiv

 German chancellor Angela Merkel, left, and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko during their meeting in Kyiv, Ukraine, Aug. 23, 2014.

​ ​In another development Saturday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel met in Kyiv with President Petro Poroshenko, and pledged about $660 million in German aid to help rebuild cities in eastern Ukraine battered by months of fighting.

Merkel said her visit, just three days ahead of a meeting between the presidents of Russia and Ukraine, comes at "a difficult but decisive time" for Ukraine's territorial integrity.  She also warned that Moscow could face further economic sanctions if its support for the rebellion continues.

Ukraine's territorial integrity is essential, Merkel said, so a critical prerequisite for a cease-fire would be to seal off the border with Russia to prevent weapons and fighters flowing into eastern Ukraine.

"We need a peaceful situation but there's no use if there's an open border with Russia over which arms are coming," she said.

As the high-level diplomacy unfolded in Kyiv, at least six civilians were reported killed by artillery fire in the key rebel stronghold city of Donetsk, as Ukraine's forces press their fight against rebels near the Russian border.

Diplomat Murdered

In a related development, the U.S. State Department voiced shock Saturday over reports that a top Lithuanian diplomat was abducted and murdered by rebels in the eastern Ukrainian city of Luhansk. 

Spokeswoman Marie Harf also extended condolences to the diplomat's family and said U.S. authorities were still "seeking information on the circumstances of this tragedy."

Lithuanian authorities reported Friday that Honorary Consul Mykola Zelenec was kidnapped and killed, but did not immediately provide details.

International outcry about convoy

The entry of Russia's convoy into Ukraine, following days of waiting as delivery details were negotiated with Kyiv, raised an outcry from Ukraine, the United States, NATO, and the European Union.

The White House called the crossing a flagrant violation of Ukraine's sovereignty and demanded Russia remove the convoy or face consequences.

In acknowledging the incursion, the Russian Foreign Ministry referred to "endless delays hampering the initial deliveries" and said those delays had become "intolerable."  It also described the aid as "urgently needed by women, children and the elderly."

Ukrainian skepticism

In the city of Kramatorsk, Ukraine, a spokesman for Ukraine's so-called Anti-Terror Operations, Olekseyi Dmitrachkovskiy, accused Russia of using the convoy to bring more supplies to rebels and to cover the tracks of their alleged involvement in the conflict.

"One of their missions was to take away dead Russian fighters,” he said, adding that they also are “stealing machine components and parts produced only in Ukraine.”

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which has monitored the conflict in Ukraine, said observers counted 227 trucks in the convoy returning across the Donetsk Border Crossing Point back into Russia Friday and Saturday.

The Red Cross said the manner in which humanitarian supplies were brought to Luhansk “has complicated” the aid mission in the city.

Thousands of people are said to be lacking water, food and medicine in Luhansk, which has been the site of some of the heaviest fighting between Ukrainian and separatist forces.

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Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Donald Fraser Miles from: Elliot Lake, Canada
August 24, 2014 6:36 AM
The Ukraine crisis exhibits some new factors in international relations. Armed conflict is close between Europe and Russia which is new. The influential role of Germany on military matters within that context is new and raises concerns by some such as Britain if not France over the growing independence of Germany from post-WW 11 constraints on its military authority and influence in Europe or globally. Russia may be testing the changing dynamics in Europe just described to aggravate European tensions without any express intent to engage Europe in armed conflict rather simply trying to weaken an already divided Europe between Britain and the Franco-German alliance formed by Sarkozy and Merkel which also could be dividing because of the change in government which occurred in France now under Hollande for some time. Advances in technology which can be applied to military technology is probably the cause of Germany's more aggressive military posture in Europe. There is a danger to Germany and maybe to Europe that Germany or like thinking nations experimenting with more aggressive defence policies might start a war where no new technology would have meant less probability of such. However, the development of new technology particularly in energy production has significant world economic and environmental benefits that command proper attention and appraisal for its higher human value.

by: mwen from: PA Philadelphia
August 23, 2014 5:38 PM
now Ukraine is fighting to get East back and what about the part Russia take over few months ago. that war is a long war. believe me or not

by: meanbill from: USA
August 23, 2014 9:28 AM
MY OPINION and admiration of Putin and the Russian people grows stronger and stronger with every crisis he and they face, and the courage they show in facing the combined financial and military might from the US, EU, and the (28) NATO countries, by themselves.
In Response

by: kujo from: san diego
August 23, 2014 5:27 PM
hows is taking a countries penisula for military strategic reasons, and funding a proxy war admirable? people are lucky in the USA that they can even post comments as yours! cause reality check in china and russia protestors are arrested. smh~
In Response

by: Lawrence C. from: Romania Bucharest
August 23, 2014 5:10 PM
Well, living near that growing stronger Russia the feelings growing stronger and stronger are definitely other than admiration for Putin, or some russian people. A new USSR is nothing to admire especially by those who tasted the communism for 50 years. May God keep the U.S.A. strong, cause Russia is already thinking for some time how to cross the ocean and the russian habits are the same as before. I hope that I am just overreacting out of fear.

by: dan from: Canada
August 23, 2014 8:33 AM
How many bound and sedated prisoners are they taking back inside those trucks to the Kremlin's specialized facilities for (permanent) interrogation?
In Response

by: Carbomontanus from: Norway
August 23, 2014 12:42 PM
I tend to believe that they rather bring leftover "strategic" military and civil hi- tech materials and equipments from the soviet era, when Eastern Ukraina was quite a weightpoint of soviet aerospace industries.

Why not simply weigh those lorries and without any warning, when they go in and out?

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