News / Europe

Skirmishes in Ukraine as Russian Aid Convoy Awaits Inspection

Ukrainian servicemen guard a checkpoint outside Donetsk, Aug. 15, 2014.
Ukrainian servicemen guard a checkpoint outside Donetsk, Aug. 15, 2014.
VOA News

Ukrainian soldiers are reinforcing positions in areas recently reclaimed from pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine.

With the help of high-tech gadgetry and brute force, government officers say they have claimed the upper hand, but on the front lines of the conflict it appears outright victory for Kyiv's army will not be easy. Aid agencies say thousands of civilians caught in the crossfire are living without electricity, water and basic supplies, and soldiers at a checkpoint in Debaltseve, deep in Donetsk province, say the pro-Russian rebels who have retreated are well-equipped.

Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian separatists skirmished repeatedly near the Russian border Saturday but there was no sign of the conflict widening a day after Kyiv said it partially destroyed an armored column that had crossed the border from Russia.

The report of the attack on the column Friday triggered a sell-off in the U.S. dollar and on European stocks, with markets fearful it could change the Ukraine conflict into an open confrontation between Moscow and Western-backed Kyiv.

But Moscow made no threat of retaliation, instead saying it was a “fantasy” that its armored vehicles entered Ukraine. In Washington the White House said it could not confirm that Russian vehicles had been attacked on Ukrainian soil.

Meanwhile, nearly 300 trucks in a Russian aid convoy remained idled near the Ukrainian border outside the Russian town of Kamensk-Shakhtinsky, as complicated procedures drag on for allowing them into eastern Ukraine to help civilians suffering amid fighting.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) would then have the responsibility for distributing the aid to Ukrainians caught in the middle of the conflict with Ukrainian forces and separatists.

On Saturday, the head of the ICRC delegation for Russia, Pascal Cuttat, said Moscow and Kyiv have agreed on how to proceed in terms of clearing, inspecting and preparing the goods. He noted the security guarantees were needed from all sides before the trucks could move. Ukrainian officials say they have begun inspecting the aid convoy.

Moscow says the mission is purely humanitarian, but Kyiv and the West have voiced concerns it could serve as a "Trojan Horse" for an invasion or a way to re-arm pro-Russian rebels who have suffered previous losses.

Earlier Saturday, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden spoke with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko to discuss the situation in Ukraine.  The White House says both leaders reaffirmed their support for a diplomatic solution to the crisis and called on Russia to enter into good faith negotiations.

The foreign ministers of Russia, Ukraine, France, and Germany are expected to meet Sunday in Berlin to discuss the tensions in Ukraine.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier told Bild newspaper that he hopes the talks will help put an end to violence in eastern Ukraine and help provide residents of the war-torn region with humanitarian aid.

French President Francois Hollande and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso discussed the situation Saturday. Afterward, Hollande called on Russia to respect Ukraine's territorial integrity and urged Kyiv to exercise restraint in its military activities. He said France is ready for a new summit on the issue and added that Sunday's meeting could be used as a first step toward that end.

Reports of ongoing skirmishes

On the ground Saturday, the conflict returned to the pattern it has been following for several weeks. Kyiv said military equipment was entering from Russia, and the rebels said they had attacked Ukrainian troops.

A Reuters reporter in Donetsk, one of two rebel strongholds in the east, said the sound of explosions was audible in the city center.

Finnish President Sauli Niinisto was to arrive in Kyiv later Saturday for talks with his Ukrainian  counterpart, Petro Poroshenko, aimed at finding a negotiated solution. Niinisto met Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday and afterwards spoke of the possibility of a truce, although it was not immediately clear how that would happen.

Moscow and Kyiv counter-claims

The conflict has dragged relations between Russia and the West to their worst since the Cold War and set off a round of trade restrictions that are hurting struggling economies both in Russia and Europe.

An estimated 2,090 people had died in the Ukraine conflict, with nearly 5,000 wounded, the United Nations said this week.

A rebel Internet news site said Saturday that separatist fighters had killed 30 members of a Ukrainian battalion in fighting in Luhansk province, a rebel-held area adjacent to the Russian border.

Rebels said two villages south of Donetsk, the other separatist stronghold, were bombed overnight with mortars. Rebel news outlet Novorossiya also said two neighborhoods itself had been hit with artillery.

A top Ukrainian government spokesman, Andriy Lysenko, contradicted the assertions. He said three Ukrainian servicemen had been killed over the past 24 hours, and denied Kiev's forces were firing artillery on Donetsk.

In the past few hours, security forces had spotted Russian drones and a helicopter crossing illegally into Ukraine's airspace, Lysenko told a news briefing.

He declined to give further details on the incident on Friday in which Kiev said it attacked armored vehicles that arrived from Russia. Ukraine has not made clear if the vehicles were manned by Russian soldiers or separatist irregulars.

Ukrainian momentum

Ukraine and its Western allies say Russia broke international law by annexing Ukraine's Crimea peninsula earlier this year, and that Moscow is now arming the Ukrainian separatists. Russia accuses Kiev of waging a criminal war against Russian-speaking civilians in the east. Both sides reject the allegations.

After a string of early defeats, Ukrainian forces have pushed the separatists out of large swathes of territory and have now nearly encircled them in Donetsk and Luhansk. Kiev says it now controls the road linking the two cities.

Russia asserts the offensive is causing a humanitarian catastrophe for the civilian population in the two cities. It accuses Kiev's forces of indiscriminately using heavy weapons in residential areas, an allegation Ukraine denies.

The convoy of more than 250 trucks purportedly carrying humanitarian aid had traveled south from the Moscow region earlier this week, alarming Kyiv and Western backers who fear the trucks entering Ukraine without approval could be a pretext for an invasion.

Moscow and Kyiv had agreed that the trucks could enter with Red Cross accompaniment if Ukrainian border guards and customs agents approved the cargo. A representative of Russia's Emergencies Situations Ministry, who declined to give his name, told AP that documents about the cargo have been given to Ukrainian officials who have come to Donetsk for the cargo inspection.

The AP also reported that Kyiv had sent a smaller but substantial aid mission to parts of the east recently freed from rebel control.

Trucks sent from the city of Kharkiv were unloaded Friday at warehouses in Starobilsk, where the goods were to be sorted and transported further by the Red Cross. Starobilsk is 60 miles north of Luhansk.

Other Ukrainian aid was taken to Lysychansk, which retaken by Ukrainian forces late last month but has seen sporadic clashes, AP reported.

In the past week, three senior rebel leaders have been removed from their posts, pointing to mounting disagreement over how to turn the tide of the fighting back in their favor.

Lysenko said he had reports of rebel fighters abandoning their posts in Luhansk, and preparing to leave Donetsk and seek safe haven in Russia.

“A mood of panic is spreading and rebels are trying to leave through the small gaps that remain,” he said.

Alexander Zakharchenko, prime minister of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic, disupted that, saying reinforcements were on their way.

In a video posted on another rebel Internet site, he said these included 150 armored vehicles and 1,200 fighters who, he said, had spent four months undergoing training in Russia.  

VOA correspondent Gabe Joselow contributed reporting from Debaltseve, Ukraine. Material from Reuters and The Associated Press was used in this report.

You May Like

WHO: Anti-Ebola Efforts Should Focus on West Africa

Official says WHO is 'reasonably confident' countries bordering those hardest hit by the Ebola outbreak are not seeing the virus crossing their borders More

South Sudan Crisis Threatens Development

Economic costs and lost development opportunities in South Sudan have erased what little progress the country has made since independence in 2011 More

Ukrainian PM Warns: Russia May Try to Disrupt Sunday Poll

Arseniy Yatsenyuk orders full security mobilization for parliamentary election to prevent ‘terrorist acts’ from being carried out More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Linda Knox
August 17, 2014 12:37 PM
Russian Half-Empty “White Humanitarian Aid Trucks” is another of Putin’s “Little Green Men” operations.
It appears that the White Trucks “dropped off aid” meant for terrorists way before they allowed a Red Cross inspection.
The Terrorists in Donetsk in a posted video boast of the “aid” they received aid from Moscow, and include a list of how many troops and the number and types of military equipment.
The inappropriate affect displayed by the leadership and listeners betrays the whole notion of the humanitarian “disaster” they announced earlier, which triggered Moscow’s Bogus White Truck mission.
This version of Putin’s “Little Green Men” operation worked well. Today another Ukrainian Fighter jet was shot down by these thugs.


by: Donald Fraser Miles from: Elliot Lake, Canada
August 17, 2014 6:33 AM
It is in Ukraine's strategic interest to let the Russian convoy of humanitarian aid into Ukraine. The convoy should be inspected as a matter of correct procedure. Any military use of the convoy can be dealt with if the problem occurred through the use of Ukraine's military. It is a mistake to interfere with the aid convoy on a presumption it is for Russian military use and advantage.


by: Gennady from: Russia, Volga Region
August 16, 2014 8:59 PM
The VOA openly supports Poroshenko and does not publish comments expressing opposing views. Kiev wages a criminal war against Russian-speaking civilians in the east just for their speaking Russian, for their sharing Russian culture and willingness to be independent from Poroshenko-Yatsenyuk. Just look for how long Poroshenko-Yatsenyuk government prevents 2000 tons of the humanitarian convoy to reach thousands civilians in the Eastern Ukraine in desperate need for help. Actually, Poroshenko-Yatsenyuk government showed the world they want the civilians in the Eastern Ukraine caught between disputing sides to be dead for their speaking Russian, for sharing Russian culture and willing to be independent from Kiyv. The same maybe said about The Red Cross that showed the same attitude.


by: Cathy Ross from: Canada
August 16, 2014 6:08 PM
Frans.... Agreed!


by: meanbill from: USA
August 16, 2014 5:33 PM
THE WISE MAN said it;.. The Ukraine troops desperately need those Russian supplies of food, water, and sleeping bags, because they've been desperately concealing their lack of supplies, (and), winter is coming..... Ukraine will hijack those supplies if they can, and might even risk a confrontation with Russian troops to get them.... (They are that desperate)...... REALLY


by: maithe from: Paris, France
August 16, 2014 5:32 PM
Of course Russia is not very clear in this story but Ukraine is not "all white" either...
We, the West, should be very careful not to take sides too quickly.
We are getting very much involved. We should think twice before doing something. We are not in the Middle East here...Remember Russia is a superpower. Danger....


by: Reinier Kanis from: Canada
August 16, 2014 5:22 PM
I am not sure if I was in Russia today, trying to express my concern, if I would be more afraid, than if I was in the USA today, expressing my concern.

The USA at very least has such a horrible reputation abroad, even here in Canada, for cheating, lying stealing and manipulating, that when the day come they do tell the truth, no one will believe them.


by: DION from: cosmo citu
August 16, 2014 4:35 PM
Tkp ahlky ahh


by: Jimmy Markey from: New Mexico
August 16, 2014 3:59 PM
So Russia denies aiding the rebels, read that last paragraph....


by: Frans from: Indonesia
August 16, 2014 10:15 AM
Western leaders must change their view about Putin from partner to criminal

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rulesi
X
October 21, 2014 12:20 AM
European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Young Nairobi Tech Innovator on 'Track' in Security Business

A 24-year-old technology innovator in Nairobi has invented a tracking device that monitors and secures cars. He has also come up with what he claims is the most robust audio-visual surveillance system yet. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from the Kenyan capital, his innovations are offering alternative security solutions.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video North Carolina Emerges as Key Election Battleground

U.S. congressional midterm elections will be held on November 4th and most political analysts give Republicans an excellent chance to win a majority in the U.S. Senate, which Democrats now control. So what are the issues driving voters in this congressional election year? VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone traveled to North Carolina, one of the most politically competitive states in the country, to find out.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

All About America

AppleAndroid