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Russia Criticized for Worsening Humanitarian Situation in Ukraine

Ukraine's Deputy UN Ambassador Oleksandr Pavlichenko addresses the U.N. Security Council as they meet to discuss the humanitarian situation in Ukraine, Aug. 5, 2014.

Russia called for an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council Tuesday to urge that international community take urgent measures to improve humanitarian conditions in eastern Ukraine, where the government and Russian-backed separatists have been fighting for months. Some Council members accused Russia of being the cause of the crisis it seeks to contain.

Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin noted that nearly 800,000 Ukrainians have sought refuge in Russia since early this year. He said Moscow is prepared to take on this “great burden” without outside help.

In eastern Ukraine, where the U.N. says nearly 4 million people live in areas affected by violence, Ambassador Churkin said action is necessary to improve living conditions, and Moscow is prepared to help.

“We would like to send a convoy with Russian humanitarian assistance under the egis and with the accompaniment of the ICRC to Donetsk and Luhansk, as well as to other inhabited areas of Ukraine where IDPs are concentrated from the east," said Churkin.

Churkin said the greatest need is for food, medicine, medical equipment, water purification systems and generators. He said Russia is prepared to act transparently and let the international community monitor the convoys, their transport routes and the distribution of aid.

Some Council members, including Britain’s ambassador Mark Lyall Grant, were skeptical, saying Russia’s support of armed rebels is responsible for the worsening humanitarian situation in the east.

“We agree that there needs to be an end to violence. We agree that alleviating humanitarian distress is a matter of priority; but Russia cannot credibly present itself as supporting the people of eastern Ukraine when it is the architect of the violence that afflicts them," said Lyall Grant.

U.S. Deputy U.N. Ambassador Rosemary DiCarlo noted that Russia has the means to end the instability.

“Russia can stop all of this. The surest way to end the violence is for Russia to stop the flow of fighters, weapons and money from Russia into eastern Ukraine. Russia has the ability to get the separatists it supports to lay down their arms, sit at the negotiating table and work to implement President [Petro] Poroshenko’s peace plan," said DiCarlo.

She said instead of positive steps, Russia has nearly doubled its battalions near the Ukrainian border. She also expressed concern about Russia’s plan to conduct a large-scale military exercise near the border that could escalate tensions.

The United Nations has voiced concern for the protection of civilians as military operations are increasingly being conducted in densely populated urban areas. The U.N. also has urged Ukraine to establish a central registration system to track and assist the displaced.