News / Europe

Russian Truck Convoy Begins Leaving Eastern Ukraine

Trucks from a convoy that delivered humanitarian aid for Ukraine move back to Russia, Aug. 23, 2014.
Trucks from a convoy that delivered humanitarian aid for Ukraine move back to Russia, Aug. 23, 2014.
Meredith BuelGabe Joselow

Several trucks from a Russian convoy that passed into Ukraine without permission from Kyiv have returned back across the border into Russia.

Witnesses said Saturday other trucks from the more than 220 vehicles that entered Ukraine Friday are arriving at the border, preparing to re-enter Russia.  It is not clear if the trucks are carrying any cargo.

On Friday, White House officials said Russia's unauthorized movement of the humanitarian truck convoy into Ukraine is a flagrant violation of Ukraine's sovereignty.

U.S. Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes said Russia must remove the convoy from eastern Ukraine or face consequences.  He said the United States plans to discuss the situation at the U.N. Security Council.  

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also voiced concern about the convoy's movement, saying any unilateral action has the potential of exacerbating an already dangerous situation in eastern Ukraine.

U.S Defense Department spokesman John Kirby told reporters the U.S. is very concerned about the trucks crossing the Ukrainian border.

”We strongly condemn this action and any actions that Russian forces take that increase tensions in the region," he said. "Russia should not send vehicles, persons or cargo of any kind into Ukraine, whether under the guise of humanitarian convoys or any other pretext, without Kyiv’s express permission.”

Kirby stopped short of calling the move an invasion, but said it amounts to a violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

“Russia must remove its vehicles and its personnel from the territory of Ukraine immediately. Failure to do so will result in additional costs and isolation,” he said.

Kirby said the U.S. is consulting with international partners to determine the next steps. He also expressed concern about what he said were more than 10,000 Russian troops along the border with Ukraine.

“They are, as I’ve described before, combined arms capable: armor, artillery, infantry, air defense. They’re very ready. They’re very capable. They’re very mobile. And they continue to do nothing but just increase the tension on the other side with Ukraine,” he said.

Kirby said Russia is continuing to support the separatists in Ukraine with heavy weapons, including tanks, artillery and air defense systems.

Watch related video report by VOA's Zlatica Hoke

Russian Convoys Enter Ukraine Without Permissioni
Zlatica Hoke
August 23, 2014 3:00 AM
Russian aid trucks have crossed the border into Ukraine's war-ravaged eastern city of Luhansk without permission from the government in Kyiv. The United States and European Union have condemned the move and are asking Moscow to withdraw the convoy. Russia has amassed thousands of troops on the border, raising concerns that it could use the conflict over the convoy as a pretext to invade eastern Ukraine. VOA's Zlatica Hoke has more.

Mobile convoy

The first trucks in a Russian convoy reportedly carrying humanitarian aid crossed Friday into Ukraine and arrived in the besieged city of Luhansk, officials said, in a dangerously provocative move that Kyiv had warned would be tantamount to invasion.

The arrival of the convoy, which had been stalled across the border in Russia for weeks while officials negotiated terms for allowing it to enter, put Ukraine and Russia on the verge of all-out war.

The first of the 260 trucks began crossing the border earlier Friday and Russian and Western news reports said some of the trucks had reached Luhansk by late afternoon.

Kyiv and many Western officials had suspected that Moscow could use the convoy as a pretext for an invasion. Russia's Foreign Ministry said in a statement Friday that all excuses for the convoys' delay had been exhausted.

Rising tensions

NATO, meanwhile, warned that Russian artillery was being used against Ukrainian troops, from across the border and from within Ukraine and large numbers of tanks, armored personnel carriers, and artillery were being shipped to rebels.

In New York, Russia's United Nations ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, challenged the claims of a Russian military presence in Ukrainian territory. "They need to provide proof," he said.

Ukrainian condemnation

President Petro Poroshenko also called the move a violation of international law, while the chief of Ukraine’s lead security agency, Valentyn Nalivaychenko, condemned Moscow for ordering the trucks into Ukrainian territory before they were inspected and approved.

The Red Cross said it was not escorting the convoy because it had not received security guarantees. The organization said its team in Luhansk reported heavy shelling overnight.

"The Russian aid convoy is moving into Ukraine, but we are not escorting it due to the volatile security situation,'' the Red Cross said in a posting on Twitter. 

UN Secretary-General statement

A spokesman for Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Ban "follows with deep concern reports that a Russian aid convoy has crossed the border into Ukraine without the permission of the Ukrainian authorities. While recognising the deteriorating humanitarian situation, any unilateral action has the potential of exacerbating an already dangerous situation in eastern Ukraine."

The Secretary-General is urging all sides, especially Ukraine and the Russian Federation, to continue to work together, along with the international community, to ensure that humanitarian assistance reaches the most affected areas. He reiterates that all sides should continue to exercise maximum restraint and avoid escalation.

The statement went on to say Ban is encouraged by the announcement from Poroshenko that Ukraine "will do everything possible to prevent more serious consequences as a result of the convoy moving into Ukrainian territory."

Washington reaction

In Washington, Benjamin Rhodes, the White House deputy national security adviser, said Russia must remove the convoy from Ukrainian territory and said the United States would bring the subject for discussion at the United Nations Security Council.

"If Russia really wants to ease the humanitarian situation in eastern Ukraine, it could do so today by halting its supply of weapons, equipment, and fighters to its proxies," National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said in a strongly worded statement. "We condemn this action by Russia, for which it will bear additional consequences. "

Defense Department spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby earlier said that the estimated 10,000 Russian troops stationed at the Ukrainian border remain "very ready, very capable, and very mobile."

NATO warns of Russian artillery

The European Union’s foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, urged Russia to reverse its decision. NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen accused Moscow of escalating the crisis.

"It can only deepen the crisis in the region, which Russia itself has created and has continued to fuel," he said in a statement.

Rasmussen also said that NATO had also seen transfers of large quantities of advanced weapons, including tanks, armored personnel carriers, and artillery to separatists.

"Moreover, NATO is observing an alarming build-up of Russian ground and air forces in the vicinity of Ukraine," Rasmussen said.

Moscow's decision

For weeks, Moscow had insisted that Luhansk was suffering a humanitarian catastrophe. The Ukrainian military had pounded rebel positions in and around the city, and earlier this week, had even managed to enter and raise a Ukrainian flag over one administration building.

The trucks in the convoy were reported to be carrying food, water, generators, and sleeping bags, but Western reporters who inspected the trucks said many were only partially full.

On Thursday, Ukrainian officials said border guards had begun checking convoy but it was unclear how many trucks they managed to inspect.

Nalivaychenko on Friday alleged that the convoy was actually made up of military vehicles driven by members of the Russian military, using fake documents, and that the drivers were trained to operate military vehicles, tanks and artillery.

Earlier in the week, Ukrainian troops reclaimed control of the nearby town of Ilovaysk, after heavy fighting with separatists. The town is strategically important because of its roads and rail line.Troops have also surrounded much of Donetsk, the largest city in the region.

In an interview televised Friday, Prime Minister Arseniy Yatseniuk said Russia's actions showed that it could not accept Ukraine's moves toward integration with Europe.

“Nothing will stop us. We have taken that decision. We are part of Europe. That is where we are going,'' he said.

Belarus meeting

Poroshenko had been set to attend a meeting next week with his Russian counterpart and others in the Belarusian capital Minsk.

If it takes place, the August 26 meeting would place the two leaders in the same room for the first time since a brief encounter in France in June.

Over 2,000 soldiers, rebels, and civilians have been killed since the fighting broke out in April.

Information from Reuters and The Associated Press was used in this report.

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Comment Sorting
Comments page of 3
by: eli from: canada
August 23, 2014 9:27 AM
Where is the proof of Russians supplying weapons to us the proof .even Reuters reporters couldn't provide that. Was that column of tanks and BMPs crossing border so fast they didn't have a chance to take a quick picture? Western BS.seems that Ukraine and NATO are the once against the peaceful solution to this conflict,and how are they different from Assad
In Response

by: Tuan from: Vietnam
August 23, 2014 9:42 PM

In Response

by: meanbill from: USA
August 23, 2014 7:16 PM
The western news media always report the lies and the propaganda the US, EU, and NATO countries tell them, as real news reports, and all the western news media are the propaganda mouthpieces, for the US and western countries lies and propaganda.... "To make the lies sound true, and the truth sound untrue."

by: dan from: Canada
August 23, 2014 8:40 AM
Why did the trucks really go there? How many bound and sedated prisoners are they taking back inside those trucks to the Kremlin's specialized facilities for (permanent) interrogation?

by: manager-Komi from: Komi rep.
August 23, 2014 7:52 AM
The Truck Convoy was just a fuel supply

by: Danny from: Taipei
August 23, 2014 6:52 AM
The US wants control of Ukraine's gas pipelines which transits Europe's gas from Russia. Joe Biden's son incidentally has been appointed to the board of directors of Ukraine pipelines. Russia on the other hand, fears NATO moving personnel and weapons to Ukraine undermining its security.

by: David from: USA
August 23, 2014 2:15 AM
Cut off Russia from EU's revenue for supplying gas and oil and Russia will have its own revolution to topple down Putin!!!!!!!!

by: Diego from: USA
August 23, 2014 1:59 AM
Ukrainians paid high price for wish to be part of the West. We betrayed them leaving them alone to face death

by: Vietnam reader from: VN
August 23, 2014 12:58 AM
Everyone is right and everyone is wrong. It just depends on which side of the fence you are sitting on. Ukraine is benefiting from American arms so it is natural that the Russian will support the separatists. Are there ethnic Russian living in this area : of course there are. Eastern Ukraine shares a border with Russia and it is over 9000km from Washington. Guess who has more strategic interest in the area. How would the US react if say, the Chinese start interfering with the Tijuana border.

by: Steve from: Boise, Idaho
August 23, 2014 12:49 AM
As an American I have absolutely no interest in Ukraine or Iraq. According to a recent survey, 83% of Americans don't even know where Ukraine is. I have no idea why Obama wants to get involved in these places. He does not have the support of the majority of Americans on these issues. I hope they impeach this loony and throw him our before he gets us involved in another war.

by: wpr from: nj
August 23, 2014 12:26 AM
all these flashpoints in the world.....they know that now is the time to pull off whatever it is.....The U.S. Is in a weakend state...with people in charge that will always do what's popular,Not what's best for our country,they know they have 2 yrs left to accheive their goals.....

by: Simon from: Norway
August 23, 2014 12:25 AM
I beginning to believe this is ethnic cleansing been carried out by the Ukrainian government supported by the US and it friends. I'm shocked by the US reaction against humanitarian aid for people the UN said are in a dying situation. The aid were inspected by Red-cross and found to be humanitarian aid, the reason Red-cross could not be with the convoy is because the Ukrainian government could not assure their safety. It is the place of any big nation in such case to get so badly needed aid to the people.
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