Humanitarian aid bound for Ukraine still lacks Red Cross approval, and the humanitarian convoy that started in the Moscow region is now stuck in the Russian city of Voronezh. This is a city not well known in the West, but is easy to find on a map.
The city of Voronezh has a population of just over a million, and is approximately 322 miles (520 km) southeast of the Russian capital. In normal traffic conditions a passenger car can make the trip in six hours. Large trucks, like the military green Russian military trucks that have been painted white for this mission, would need seven or more hours to make the trip.
Trucks in the convoy stopped at Voronezh earlier today, and were waiting there for further instructions before completing the final distance to the Ukrainian border. The Russian foreign ministry indicated earlier that the entry point to the Ukrainian border would be the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv. The distance from Voronezh to Kharkiv is about 173 miles (278 km). Given terrain and road conditions, the driving distance is around four hours for cars, and up to six hours for large trucks.
That final short distance between Voronezh and Kharkiv highlights the ongoing drama in Russia’s humanitarian aid to eastern Ukraine. Russia claims that the aid is for the people of eastern Ukraine, and is being sent with the coordination of the International Red Cross. However, the Red Cross says they have not been allowed to inspect the shipment, and have no idea of the contents inside the military trucks covered with white tarps.
Ukraine’s humanitarian aid is stuck in Voronezh because government officials in Kiev are skeptical, and point to examples of Russia inserting troops in former Soviet Republics under the guise of humanitarian aid. Moscow has negleected to sign Red Cross documents guaranteeing neutrality of the shipments. That oversight has prompted Ukrainian President Poroshenko to ask whether Russia plans to use the humanitarian aid to resupply pro-Russian rebels under siege in the cities of Donetsk and Luhansk.
Voronezh was founded in 1585, although evidence of settlements along the Voronezh river date to the fourth century. It was at Voronezh that Peter the Great constructed the first Russian naval fleet. That fleet was used in the Avoz campaigns in the late 1600s. Voronezh is located where the Voronezh River flows into the larger Don River, and due to the ease of river navigation, the Germans used the city as a staging point for their assault on Stalingrad. The city of Stalingrad is known today as Volgograd.
Ukraine’s humanitarian aid may be stuck in Voronezh, but at least the city is easy to find on a map, and with a little help, the name is fairly easy to pronounce. In Russian Cyrillic, the city is spelled as Воронеж, and transliterated into English as V-o-r-o-n-e-zh. In the Russian language, any letter O, one of ten Cyrillic vowels, is pronounced as an A unless stressed. Only one vowel can be stressed in a word, and as the first O is not stressed in this case, a native Russian will speak the name of the city as Vah-ro’-nezh.
By Jim Hanemaayer