VORONEZH, Russia (AP) — A Russian aid convoy resumed traveling toward Ukraine early Thursday, taking the road leading south toward the rebel-held city of Luhansk.
The convoy of about 262 vehicles had been parked at a military depot in the southern Russian city of Voronezh since late Tuesday amid disagreement over how and where it would cross into Ukraine, where government troops are battling pro-Russia separatists.
By sending the convoy south, Russia appears intent on not abiding by an earlier tentative agreement to deliver the aid to a Ukraine government-controlled crossing in the Kharkiv region, where it could be inspected by the Red Cross. Instead, the trucks will most likely cross into Ukraine in the Luhansk region, where much of the border is rebel-controlled.
Moscow has insisted it coordinated the dispatch of the goods, which it says range from baby food and canned meat to portable generators and sleeping bags, with the International Red Cross. However, Ukraine says it’s worried the mission may be a cover for an invasion. On Wednesday, representatives of the ICRC said they were still in the dark about the final destination of the convoy.
Kiev and the West have accused Moscow of providing arms and expertise to pro-Russian rebels in east Ukraine who have been battling government forces since April, and confusion about what the trucks contain and where they are headed have only fanned fears about Russia’s intentions.
On Wednesday, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko accused Moscow of possibly planning a “direct invasion of Ukrainian territory under the guise of delivering humanitarian aid.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, insisted Wednesday that the operation was proceeding in full cooperation with the Red Cross but he did not comment on the route.