Ukrainian border guards began on Thursday to inspect a Russian truck convoy carrying aid earmarked for humanitarian relief in eastern Ukraine that has been stranded at the border between the two former Soviet republics for nearly a week.
Ukraine's border guard service said that its troops had begun checking the first vehicles in the more than 200-truck convoy as they finally begin the process of entering Ukraine.
The convoy had been waiting at the border for a series of formal steps to be completed, including inspection by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). The Red Cross had waited several days for security guarantees from all sides before approaching the convoy.
A Russian guard opens a border gate for passage into Ukraine for the first trucks heading into the country from the Russian town of Donetsk, Rostov-on-Don region, Russia, Aug. 22, 2014.
A Russian convoy loaded with humanitarian relief for Ukraine waits at the Russian inspection zone, at the Russia - Ukraine border check point, Donetsk, Rostov-on-Don region, Russia, Aug. 21, 2014.
Convoy trucks move down the main road to Luhansk after passing through the Russia - Ukraine border post at Izvaryne, near the village of Uralo-Kavkaz, eastern Ukraine, Aug. 22, 2014.
A Russian convoy carrying humanitarian aid for Ukraine drives to the Russia-Ukraine border crossing point while Ukraine refugees stand nearby, in Rostov region, Russia, Aug. 22, 2014.
Refugees walk past a Russian humanitarian aid convoy near a Russia-Ukraine border crossing point, in Rostov region, Aug. 21, 2014.
Truck drivers from the Russian aid convoy take a break in the Russian inspection zone, inside a border control point with Ukraine, Donetsk, Rostov-on-Don region, Russia, Aug. 21, 2014.
Refugee children from eastern Ukraine look out the window of a mini-bus upon their arrival at a railway station, in Stavropol, southern Russia, Aug. 21, 2014.
Refugees fleeing the fighting in eastern Ukraine make their way toward a refugee camp, in Stavropol, southern Russia, Aug. 21, 2014.
An Interior Ministry member surveys a Russian convoy carrying humanitarian aid to Ukraine, near Kamensk-Shakhtinsky, Rostov region, Aug. 21, 2014.
Two jeeps passed through the Izvaryne border post on Thursday and were seen heading inside the war-torn region of Luhansk.
The Ukrainian border guard service said that behind the Red Cross jeeps, some Russian trucks in the aid convoy were clearing customs.
It was not clear when the trucks would finally be authorized to enter Ukrainian territory, which at that border point is under rebel control. The rebels granted Kyiv's border guards permission to access the crossing to check the trucks.
A Reuters witness saw 16 trucks move into territory beyond the Russian checkpoint, later followed by a second mini-convoy of 16 vehicles.
Aid for Luhansk
Kyiv believes the convoy of about 260 trucks, carrying water, food and medicines, could prove a Trojan horse for Russia to get weapons to pro-Russian separatists battling Ukrainian forces in the region - a notion that Moscow has dismissed as absurd.
Luhansk has been largely cut off for weeks and is without water and regular supplies of electricity, which have hit mobile and landline phone connections.
Kyiv and its Western allies accuse Moscow of supporting and arming the rebels. Moscow denies such allegations but has warned of a “humanitarian catastrophe” in eastern Ukraine.
Some information for this report provided by Reuters and AP.