Ukraine's interior minister, Arsen Avakov, has said again that a Russian aid convoy en route to Ukraine will not be allowed in. There are concerns that the 280 trucks could be used as a cover to invade Ukraine.
The convoy carrying what Russia says is humanitarian aid for the victims of the unrest in eastern Ukraine was moving towards Ukraine's border on Wednesday.
"No humanitarian convoy of Putin's will be allowed to cross the territory of the Kharkiv region," Avakov wrote on Facebook. "Provocation by the cynical aggressor will not be permitted on our territory."
Ukraine andWestern countries fear that Russia could use the convoy as a cover
to send in troops.
But Russian President Vladimir Putin has said the 1,800 tons of supplies such as baby food, medical equipment, sleeping bags and generators being transported were justified because of the "catastrophic" situation in the besieged cities of Luhansk and Donetsk.
Initially, Kyiv welcomed the assistance, but when the contents of the 280 trucks were not verified by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) as planned, Ukraine's chief-of-staff, Anatoliy Chaly, said Ukraine would not let the convoy cross its territory unless its contents 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 denied that such an agreement had been reached.
Russian media said the shipment had passed through the city of Voronezh early on Wednesday, which would put it less than 300 kilometers (190 miles) from the border crossing at Shebekino, where the foreign ministry said the aid would enter Ukraine.
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.
Meanwhile, the Associated Press reported that at least three people have been killed in Donetsk as the government intensifies its shelling campaign to quash the rebellion by pro-Russian forces in eastern Ukraine.
ng/se (dpa, AFP, AP)