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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by: Igor from: Russia
August 23, 2014 12:19 AM
Dear Sirs and Madams, Russia only immitates the USA in actions: The USA ilegally sent special troops into Syria to try toi rescue american journalists held by Suni millitants without asking Syrian government for permission. Although their mission failed but it has taught Russia a lesson: If you waits for the approval from Kiev, the West and the Red Cross, there will be more and more innocent people dying from starvation every day. So "Make hay while the sun shines."

by: Jay from: USA
August 22, 2014 11:46 PM
NATO should occupy the disputed territory and inspect all transports to allow humanitarian and deny military transports. 100,000 troops from 20 c
In Response

by: George from: Adelaide, Australia
August 23, 2014 5:03 AM
I think a lot of people do not know what is really happening on the east of the Ukraine.

1/ the residents in east Ukraine re very pro Russian, and are aligned with the Russian people.

2/ The Russian government is under enormous pressure from the Russian public to act on humantiarian grounds, remember there is no food, no water,, people are dying there

3/ The Ukraine governement does not care about civilian cost in east Ukraine, as most people there are pro russian

4/ There have been rocket missiles sent by the Ukraine army indiscriminately and have killed 100's of people.

For me it is the public and civilians that need to be looked after in east Ukraine, not the wests interests or the Rusian interests.

how would you like if your family wassituated there ????
In Response

by: Anonymous
August 23, 2014 12:03 AM
In that case Russia will occupy some NATO territory and terrorize you mom. Then it will prevent medical personnel from getting to her. Have a nice day genius.

by: DellStator from: US
August 22, 2014 8:13 PM
Russia has in the last week, run a column of armor into the Ukraine in front of reporters eyes, fired artillery from within the Ukraine with evidence provided by US, not Ukraine, (and note that this week a column of refugees was shelled to pieces), and drove 200 trucks into the Ukraine, lightly loaded with supplies, so obviously not for aid, for some other reason.

Western Reaction, wait, see, wait, wait, is it, what is it, wait...

Would the spineless Western nations at least fund a build a wall fund. A billion should do it, and it can be mostly paid to Western defense contractors to hire dirt cheap Ukrainians by the tens of thousands. Two anti tank ditches, flanked by and with a paved road between, all flanked by two 12 foot tall chain link fences 6 feet in the ground, flanked by 2 more roads. Start building NOW. It's non lethal, it'll help Ukrainians of all types, defense contractors can bribe their local politicos to make it happen so they can get richer. Win - Win.

by: help all people from: No more Wars
August 22, 2014 8:01 PM
why would anyone have a problem with humanitarian convoy. EU,US,UN,UNHCR and other should send same humanitarian assistance to east Ukraine,Gaza,Palestine, people of Iraq(to all without asking who they are Christians,Sunni, Kurd,Or Shiite or where they live),Syria, Ebola stricken western Africa Countries, Congo,Somalia,Afghanistan, CAR-central Africa, in all these countries and regions millions are starving and kids are dying from hunger and thrust, in Syria where Assad forces are keeping rebel cities besieged off for 3 years people are reporting as well as journalist are saying that thousands of kids are dying from hunger and there is all kinds of wounded people that need to be evacuated. UN with help of others especially Russia(because they are supporting Assad) need to open corridors so these people can evacuate and west should do food drops in Syriya just as they are dropping food to Yazidies and Christians in Iraq. and why don't EU,USA,UN,UNHCR help these people like the Russians are helping their own and are sending the Russian people in besieged cities of Ukraine help .they are doing these so that people and kids have meals and water and no one should disagree with that. less bombing and spending on arms and armies more on education and food and well-being of people should be everyone country motto
In Response

by: Humanitarian from: Greece
August 23, 2014 9:17 AM
Because US, UK and NATO have different definition of humanitarian aid, they bomb coutries with "humanitarian bombs". I quess they never heard that humanitarian aid might consists of watter and food.
In Response

by: David Ray from: cali
August 23, 2014 7:31 AM
Hey fool how many kids will die if it is a trick as inteligents has expected! If they really wanted to get supplies to needy ppl tell them to park the trucks at the border and step back 10 miles and let ppl (not russians ) take control of the trucks to do so!
In Response

by: Jimmy Knuckles
August 22, 2014 8:26 PM
Oh yeah, the Russians are just trying to help some poor people. Just like they helped Crimea, you know, that part of Ukraine that isn't anymore. Can you be that dense? Putin wants to drag Ukraine back under Russian influence, he's making a land grab and Obama is too weak to stand up to him. The "sainted" Russians are not doing anything but helping themselves to another country, just like another dictator did some 75 years ago.

by: john lambert from: Australia
August 22, 2014 7:39 PM
So its ok if the usa and Britton do it (aka Libya, serbia, iraq ect ect ect) but if russia does the same its against international rules and norms.
Lol the western world set these norms so they have no right to now complain

by: John from: California
August 22, 2014 6:15 PM
The State Department obviously has no clue how ludicrously bad the US looks calling a humanitarian convoy an invasion. Kiev's constant hysteria is even worse, as are the comments of the idiot NATO Commander Fogh Rasmussen, who apparently was born hating Russia.

If Russia wants to roll troops into the area in dispute, it won't do it by putting them in civilian trucks filled with food, water and medical supplies. They will be in tanks and armored personnel carriers. Kiev's delay of the aid for almost two weeks is shameful.
In Response

by: George Stamelos from: Adelaide, Australia
August 23, 2014 5:07 AM
Well said John
I fully agree with you there!!

by: Sunny Enwerem from: Lagos Nigeria
August 22, 2014 4:58 PM
Its a pity the west continue to blind themselves from the fact that Putin wants a fight and knows he can't really prove any without a fight to enable him destabilize Ukraine and put Russian troops in Ukraine's territory which will remain as a deterrence for a want to be EU Ukraine and would not leave without a compensation.

by: Bob from: USA
August 22, 2014 4:23 PM
Earlier in the week Russia sent tanks and other armored vehicles accross the border at night and now the separatists need soldiers to operate them and that is what these truck drivers are.

by: rt4428 from: USA
August 22, 2014 2:20 PM
Those Russians are good kind people. It's a blessing that there are still a few good people left, willing to put themselves at risk, to provide a helping hand to those less fortunate in need.

God will remember you guys.

by: Mike from: USA
August 22, 2014 2:16 PM
This unilateral move by Putin will extend the conflict and instability in Ukraine. If Putin wanted the suffering to stop he would not supply advanced weapons and stop cross border and illegal movement of mercenaries and military equipment. Putin is fearful that the spirit and desire of western fairness and equality will spread to Russia which will be very bad for him
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