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article imageUkraine could block convoy from Moscow bringing aid to rebels

By Nathan Salant     Aug 12, 2014 in World
Kiev - Kiev is threatening to block a convoy of trucks bringing aid supplies from the Russian Federation to besieged anti-government protesters in eastern Ukraine.
The nearly 300 trucks that left Tuesday from just outside Moscow will be subject to close inspection when they arrive at the border because Ukraine suspects the Russians of planning a military intervention in the former Soviet republic.
Russia has been massing troops on its long border with Ukraine and already has intervened militarily once, when it seized Crimea in March.
"This cargo will be reloaded onto other transport vehicles (at the border) by the Red Cross," Ukrainian presidential aide Valery Chaly told the Reuters news service.
"We will not allow any escort by the emergencies ministry of Russia or by the military," Chaly said.
"Everything will be under the control of the Ukrainian side," he said.
Russian media reported the vehicles would take a few days to make the 620-mile trip to the Ukraine border to reach rebel fighters who are pushing for a new union with Moscow.
The rebels are facing food and water shortages after considerable early success in their battle to separate from Ukraine.
In March, rebels seized several major eastern Ukraine cities, including Donetsk, Luhansk and Slavyansk, but Kiev stepped up its military effort and began winning on the battlefield.
Even the rebel capital of Donetsk, which has operated as an independent country for more than five months, is now surrounded by Ukraine forces, Reuters said.
Russian television showed a long line of trucks being loaded with crates of water and sacks of aid packages while a Russian orthodox priest sprayed holy water on them, Reuters said.
"It has all been agreed with Ukraine," Business FM radio quoted Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, as saying.
But US, French and Australian officials expressed concern that Russia might use the deliveries to re-energize the opposition or to stage covert operations.
NATO warned Monday of a "high probability" of Russian military intervention in Ukraine, Reuters said.
President Petro Poroshenko said Ukraine only will allow aid to cross the border with Russia if it is part of an international relief mission under the auspices of the International Committee of the Red Cross.
"We still need clarification, details on the content, and type of transportation and storage needed," an ICRC spokesperson in Geneva told Reuters.
Former Ukraine President Leonid Kuchma told Reuters that plans call for the convoy to travel through northeastern Ukraine to Luhansk with an escort from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
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