Ukraine’s government in Kiev has claimed to be under an invasion by Russia as Russian authorities ordered a large convoy of “humanitarian aid” trucks to move across the border. The convoy, manned only by Russian drivers and crew, crossed into Ukraine without permission of the Ukrainian government and without inspection by the International Red Cross. Russia ignored their earlier agreement that International Red Cross staff would drive the convoy once inside Ukraine.
On Saturday several sources indicated that some of the trucks were returning to the border after delivering their loads in Luhansk. It is not known whether the trucks are carrying any cargo or personnel out of Ukraine. Russian officials had refused to allow all the trucks to be inspected, but those that were inspected were near empty. Some had diapers, buckwheat cereal, canned meats and bottle water, but of the trucks inspected most were more than half empty according to Western reporters on the scene and Red Cross inspectors.
Valentyn Nalyvaichenko, Ukraine’s chief of security services, termed the convoy entry into Ukraine as a “direct invasion.” For days, the International Red Cross had been denied the opportunity to inspect most of the convoy trucks as Russia had previously agreed. Russia claims that Ukraine was responsible for holding up the inspection of trucks by Red Cross staff. The Red Cross, however, tells a different story. According to Red Cross officials the delays in granting inspections were from Russia’s refusal to allow all the trucks to be inspected.
Russian has consistently claimed that the International Red Cross was part of the convoy. However, as reported by the BBC, Red Cross officials were surprised by the move, and say that it was solely Moscow’s decision to enter Ukraine without them.
At the UN Security Council meeting, Russia defended the convoy’s entrance into Ukraine by claiming the existence of a document from Kiev. The Ukrainian government denies that permission was granted. A message posted on the website of the Russian Foreign Ministry states that Russia acted unilaterally due to “unbearable delays,” and blamed Ukraine’s “manipulators from abroad” for delaying humanitarian aid to eastern Ukraine. The message leaves no doubt as to Russia’s intentions, saying: “The Russian side has decided to act.”
Ukraine and NATO claim that Russia has massed over 20,000 troops along the Ukrainian border. Russia denies this, saying instead that troops in those areas are on training maneuvers. The existence of Russian troops, despite Moscow’s protests to the contrary, has been documented by a variety of reliable sources, both military and civilian.
Ukraine says that trained Russian military make up the majority of pro-Russian separatists operating in eastern Ukraine. Russia denies the claim but even a cursory reading of Russian social media clears up this fog quite quickly. Ethnic Russian soldiers post photos and messages back home to family in Russia. Ukrainian citizens, representing both sides of the conflict, have posted photos and videos on YouTube and social media sites of Russian combatants.
Ukraine says that Russia is funneling military equipment across the border into the eastern battle zones. Russia says it does not supply the rebels. Until recently, the only clear evidence were posts on YouTube and RUTube by residents who filmed Russian tanks, missile launchers, and troop carriers that had crossed the border.
Last week, two British reporters witnessed a column of over 20 Russian military vehicles crossing the border after dark. They posted photos of the illegal entry on Twitter. Several days later, LifeNews, a Russian news television channel with close ties to the Kremlin, confirmed those reports. LifeNews has reporters embedded with the pro-Russian separatists.
Ukraine claims that Russia’s action constitutes an invasion, and some observers have pointed out that this pattern closely follows the scenario prior to the invasion of Georgia in 2008. When that war broke out, Vladimir Putin argued that Georgian troops fired the first shots, despite the fact for months that Russia had massed a large invasion force on the Georgian border.
Later on Russian television, Putin admitted what military experts already knew: The invasion had been planned long before shots were fired. First Deputy Defense Minister and Chief of the General Staff Yuri Baluyevsky, in a Russian language television documentary aired in 2012, testified that the Russian military had received orders for the invasion before the inauguration of President Medvedev in May 2008. The invasion commenced later in the summer, August 2008.
During Russia’s annexation of Crimea in March, Putin called a press conference with members of the foreign press in Moscow. At that meeting he berated several reporters who asked why the forces occupying Crimea were military personnel in unmarked uniforms, and using unmarked Russian military equipment.
Despite plenty of television footage of Russian helicopter airlifts, and deliveries of equipment by the Black Sea fleet, Putin denied any official Moscow ties to the troops. He told the press that the soldiers in Crimea were local peacekeepers who must have purchased their gear at local Army surplus stores.
Ukraine’s government in Kiev feels that Putin is attempting the same type of operation in eastern Ukraine. The Ukrainian claim of a Russian invasion is driven by a fear that the convoy was sent to resupply and reinforce the rebels fighting the Ukrainian army.
By Jim Hanemaayer