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Russia aid convoy stalled amid Ukrainian skepticism

An aid convoy comprising some 260 Russian trucks on its way to rebel-held eastern Ukraine remains at a standstill in southwestern Russia. Moscow has rejected Ukrainian skepticism about the vehicles' contents as "absurd."

Ukrainian officials on Wednesday redoubled claims that a Russian convoy hauling humanitarian aid en route for eastern Ukraine was not to cross the border until its destination and contents had been confirmed by Ukrainian and international observers.

"First they send tanks, Grad missiles and bandits who fire on Ukrainians, and then they send water and salt," Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk said of the conflict that has killed over 2,000 since April.

"The level of Russian cynicism knows no bounds," Yatseniuk added.

Russia said it had provided a list of the supplies to Ukrainian authorities and the International Committee of the Red Cross, but the latter said Wednesday a more "detailed inventory" was required.

"A number of important issues still need to be clarified between the two sides, including border crossing procedures, customs clearance and other issues," ICRC spokeswoman Anastasia Isyuk told Reuters.

The list put forward by Moscow included food, water bottles and generators, she said.

Back and forth

Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said Wednesday that there were ulterior motives behind the Kremlin's "humanitarian act."

"No humanitarian convoy of Putin's will be allowed to cross," Avakov wrote on his personal Facebook page. "Provocation by the cynical aggressor will not be permitted on our territory."

Western countries, as well, voiced fears that Russia could use the convoy as a cover to send in troops.

The Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement Wednesday calling such claims "absurd."

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said the 1,800 tons of supplies were justified because of the "catastrophic" situation in the besieged cities of Luhansk and Donetsk.

Agreements dissolve

Initially, Kyiv had welcomed the supplies, pending their verification. Anatoliy Chaly, deputy chief of staff, said Ukraine would not let the convoy cross its territory unless the trucks could be unloaded and inspected.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Tuesday that an agreement had been reached for the trucks to be inspected by Ukrainian authorities before continuing on with ICRC and Ukrainian representatives on board. Ukraine has repeatedly denied that such an agreement had been reached.

The convoy is destined for the Luhansk region, where thousands of civilians have been without power or mains water for 11 days. Russia had suggested rerouting the convoy so that it would go through Kharkiv, as the region is controlled by Ukrainian forces, not pro-Russian rebels.

Red Cross officials in Ukraine, however, now say they have been left in the dark about the destination of the Russian aid.

"The final route is not known. Even at the moment I am trying to find out where the convoy is," Andre Loersch, a spokesman for the ICRC mission in Ukraine, told the Associated Press.

glb/rc (AP, Reuters, dpa)