Earlier today, Russia dispatched 280 trucks carrying humanitarian aid to eastern Ukraine.
Television images showed a long line of tractor-trailers stretched along a road. A Russian Orthodox priest was shown sprinkling the trucks with holy water before their departure. And the vehicles were draped in huge banners reading “humanitarian aid” in Russian, along with the double-headed eagle of Russia and its white, blue and red flag.
Ukraine has said that they will not allow the convoy to cross the Ukrainian border and that all aid should be turned over beforehand.
“We will not consider the possibility of any movement of the Russian column on the territory of Ukraine,” said Valeriy Chalyy, deputy head of the presidential administration.
Though the Russians claim that convoy is part of an agreement with the Ukrainian government and International Red Cross, Ukrainian and EU officials remain skeptical. Some have referred to the convoy as a “Trojan horse.”
The news that the convoy had left Russia surprised key players like the International Red Cross itself. A Red Cross representative said that the organization had only learnt of the convoy’s departure through news reports, and had no information about its contents.
“It took us by surprise. Last night we had a general agreement that some aid would be provided by the Russian Federation. The next stage was that Russia was to provide a detailed list of the items they wanted to provide,” the spokesman said.
Clearly the Russians skipped a step or two.
To this end, EU humanitarian aid commissioner Kristalina Georgieva said, “It is very important that delivery of humanitarian aid anywhere, by anyone, complies with the principles of neutrality, impartiality and independence and that international humanitarian organizations are those who … help people affected by crisis.”
“No political or any other objectives must be pursued,” Georgieva told a news conference. “The content of humanitarian aid must be exactly that, humanitarian aid, and obviously cannot be taken on face value.”
Coming on the heels of a NATO warning that there is a “high probability” of Russian intervention in Ukraine’s four-month old civil war, we certainly can’t trust Putin’s word. He has shown time and time again that he has no intention but to deceive Ukrainians, the West and his own people for that matter.
Now that the international community is involved, I am hopeful that Russian aid will get to those that need it.
Former Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma, who has served as a mediator between the government and the rebels, said the aid would be distributed to hospitals, kindergartens, orphanages and other people in need. “The militants must not receive one gram,” he was quoted as saying by the news agency Interfax.
Although there are some within Ukraine that have no interest in accepting any aid from the Russians who are arguably set on destroying their country and promoting a civil war, news of Russian assistance must be welcomed but treated cautiously.
While we know that trusting Putin is not an option, the facts are that Ukraine needs aid and support and they aren’t getting enough from the US and EU. It follows that unless the West is willing to increase their support packages, we have to allow for Russian aid, however cautiously.