A Russian aid convoy has now entered East Ukraine as part of a tenuous deal between Russia and the government in Kiev to provide humanitarian assistance to the war torn area. Part of the deal was that Red Cross aid workers would be part of the convoys but the Red Cross backed out of the convoy leading Valentyn Nalyvaychenko, the head of Ukraine’s security service, to label the crossing of the Russian convoy an invasion of Ukraine.
The Red Cross says it backed out of the convoy deal because it did not feel its people could be safe. It also remains unclear as to how many trucks are actually entering now when compared to half dozen or so that were inspected at the Russia-Ukraine border by forces loyal to the government in Kiev.
The trucks were part of a larger convoy that left the Moscow area last week, with Russia insisting that it be allowed to send aid to civilians — many of them Russian speakers — affected by the months of fighting in eastern Ukraine. Aid groups say the battles have left thousands without access to water, electricity and proper medical aid.
Ukraine, concerned that Russia might try to smuggle military supplies, stalled the trucks for days on the Russian side of the border. But Ukrainian officials acknowledged Sunday that the convoy of more than 260 Russian vehicles was, in fact, carrying humanitarian aid.
Clearly sending in aid is not really an invasion, but if Kiev strikes the aid trucks it is quite possible that Moscow will send more than food and first aid kits across the border. Which may be Kiev’s real objection – that Russia is providing a safe zone for the separatists with its presence. A de facto ceasfire.
With Russian personnel now explicitly on the ground in East Ukraine it is hard to see how Kiev ever takes the territory back completely, at least for the time being. While forces loyal to Kiev have been performing well against East Ukraine separatist forces it is unlikely they would do as well against the Russian military.
This move may have just clicked the dial a bit closer to a war with Russia or may lead to Kiev begrudgingly accepting some kind of restructuring that includes more autonomy for East Ukraine and ethnic Russians. We will find out soon enough.