The hostility between Russia and Ukraine has been the focal point of tension brewing in Eastern Europe. Ever since the Ukrainian army and pro-Russian separatists have started fighting over the annexation of eastern Ukraine and Crimea, casualties on both sides have increased. With the bombing of MH17, Russia is under the international scanner and their latest offer of humanitarian aid to Ukraine begs to ask the evident question of what this could mean for civilians and politicians alike.
A cavalcade of 280 white trucks in southern Russia made their way to Ukraine on Tuesday. This move may be a particularly rare display of humanity amidst hostility; but, as always, it can be viewed either as much-needed help or an invasion disguised as help against an already war-torn Ukraine.
The pressure in and around Donetsk is unmistakable and insurmountable. The military force in Ukraine weighed down on pro-Russian fighters and troops still posted at the borders of Ukraine. Many people believe that Russia is trying to pull the wool over Ukraine’s eyes with their latest aid efforts.
Danylo Lubkivsky, the Ukrainian deputy foreign minister, told reporters what he thinks at least most Ukrainians are thinking. At an interview in Kiev, Lubkivsky said that Russia kept spinning new tales of their policy towards neighboring countries like they did with the pro-Russian minority in Georgia and avoiding NATO in Crimea. In the north-eastern Ukrainian parts of Donbas, a region ravaged by war, he claimed that the Russian army was masquerading their humanitarian aid as a covert attack.
Repainting their military vehicles is, at least, what most Ukrainian officials think the Russians are doing to cover up their surprise attack. There has been no documented proof of this claim, but it is a notion that the officials are keen on spreading to avoid the Russians landing in Ukraine.
The loyal Ukrainian locals in Kiev fear that Russia’s aid is not necessarily what they need now. Igor Vlasenko, an IT specialist, believes that Ukraine can take care of itself. Vladmir Putin’s Russian aid is certainly not welcome in Ukraine and as Vlasenko puts it, one certainly cannot trust the country that sends war and relief in the same cars. As Ukraine weighed the pros and cons of this adventitious Russian move, many Western countries share the fear.
Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the NATO Secretary General, in an interview with Reuters, discussed the possibilities of Russia’s covert attempts to invade Ukraine. Emphasizing the possibility of a Russian invasion, he said that the offer for war-relief is a pretext to organize illegal military operations.
Putin, who also weighed in on Russia’s effort to help Ukraine, acknowledged the convoy that snaked its way to Ukraine. On Monday, Putin claimed that he was working with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to deliver the aid to Ukraine. Unfortunately for Putin, the Red Cross stated that they had no idea about this convoy and Andrew Loersch, an ICRC spokesman, denied any knowledge of the agreement.
Laurent Corbaz, the chief of ICRC Europe in Geneva, explained that the Russian war-aid effort was vague and ill-defined. He also expressed the lack of clarity on Moscow’s distribution plan and he wondered if Red Cross workers were guaranteed safety in Ukraine.
Corbaz did say that Russia had approached them earlier, but the ICRC requested that it first needed the pragmatic insight required to launch the operation. As far as Corbaz was concerned, the Red Cross apparently knew nothing about the contents of the convoy. Russian news agency Itar-Tass reported that the Luhansk-bound shipment contained electrical power units, sleeping bags and 54 tons of medical supplies. It also held 62 tons of baby food, 100 tons of sugar and 400 tons of grains.
Ukraine is determined to stop any Russian effort of entering its land. Uncertified aid is unwelcome in any form and Ukraine has recently stopped one such attempt. Valeriy Chaly, Ukraine’s Deputy Head of the Presidential Administration, termed the international aid effort a false pretense to launch a full-scale conflict.
It is perhaps a little too well-timed for the Russian convoy of humanitarian aid to enter Ukraine. 50,000 Ukrainian troops have been commissioned to face the rebels in Donetsk. The war, which started last year over Ukraine choosing between Russia and the rest of Europe for closer ties, has resulted in many people being reported missing and having fled Ukraine. About 1400 people were reported dead and over 4000 people have been wounded since April this year. Ukrainian officials believe that their efforts at fighting pro-Russian rebels are working effectively and hope to regain control of Donetsk by August 24, Ukraine’s Independence Day.
By Rathan Paul Harshavardan.