Ukraine says it has stopped a Russian invasion attempt, under the guise of escorting “humanitarian aid” as it advanced toward the Ukrainian border. Deputy head of Ukrainian president Petro Porosheno’s office, Valeriy Chaliy, told television reporters that Russian troops had tried to enter Ukraine, pretending to escort humanitarian assistance by the Red Cross.
Chaliy said that some of the Russian military massed along the Ukrainian border began to move a large convoy of troops and military hardware, using the guise of escorting a Red Cross mission. The convoy was stopped without conflict, using diplomatic channels, after Ukrainian officials from President Porosheno’s staff conferred by telephone with Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov.
Chaliy said that Lavrov, after speaking with Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin, assured the Ukrainians that Russia’s attempts to cross the border “will be stopped.” The West has been concerned for some time that Russia would use the pretext of humanitarian aid to invade, then consolidate territorial gains carved out by Russian rebels claiming to lead Ukrainian independence movements.
According to Ukrainian accounts, Russian commanders had pretended that “peace keepers” and military hardware were to protect and lead a convoy organized by the International Red Cross. Chaliy said that the Red Cross denied any knowledge of the convoy. Armed convoys aside, it should be acknowledged that the Red Cross has indicated they are anxious to facilitate support for the affected population of eastern Ukraine.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko called an emergency meeting of his security council. Then, he communicated with several world leaders, including a telephone conversation with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. Poroshenko also spoke with Peter Maurer, head of the International Committee of the Red Cross. Maurer reportedly told the Ukrainian president that the Red Cross had no knowledge of an alleged convoy under their name.
Ukraine stopped the Russian humanitarian convoy this time, but on Thursday, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power had a strong message for the Putin government in response to Russia’s proposal of peacekeeping troops, and the delivery of humanitarian aid into eastern Ukraine. Power stated that further escalation by Russia, even if done under the pretense of humanitarian aid, “would be viewed as an invasion of Ukraine.”
Matthew Rojansky is director of the Kennan Institute of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. On a Fox News interview recently, Rojansky said that Russia’s rebels who remain in Donetsk are surrounded by the Ukrainian Army, cut off from the Russian border, and so at some point Russia will act and invade. Rojansky says of the battle for Donestsk, “This is going to be like Stalingrad. It’s going to be urban warfare.”
Didier Burkhalter, the Swiss Foreign Minister who serves as Chairperson for the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), said today that the OSCE is willing to extend and support humanitarian efforts in Ukraine. But he also said that such efforts should only be carried out with the permission and full cooperation of the Ukrainian government in Kiev.
A statement on the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs is directed squarely at the Russians. The statement reads, “We would like to remind the Russian side that under the international law a request from Ukraine as the host state is needed for humanitarian aid to be provided.” The statement goes on to say, “This position is fully shared by the international community and was re-confirmed at today’s meeting of the UN Security Council.”
At least for now, Ukraine has stopped a Russian “humanitarian” convoy. The world watches–and prays.
By Jim Hanemaayer