Russia let Ukrainian officials inspect an aid convoy on Friday and agreed to let the Red Cross distribute the aid around the rebel-held city of Luhansk, easing tensions and dispelling Ukrainian fears that the aid operation is a ruse to get military help to separatist rebels.
In violation of an earlier tentative agreement, Russia had sent the convoy of roughly 200 trucks to a border crossing under the control of pro-Russia separatists, raising the prospect that it could enter Ukraine without being inspected by Ukraine and the Red Cross. Ukraine vowed to use all means necessary to block the convoy in such a scenario, leading to fears of escalation in the conflict.
Adding to the tensions, a dozen Russian armored personnel carriers appeared early Friday near where the trucks were parked for the night, 28 kilometers (17 miles) from the border. Andriy Lysenko, a spokesman for Ukraine’s security council, said some Russian military vehicles crossed into Ukraine — a charge Russia denied.
Despite mutual distrust, the two sides reached an agreement Friday morning, and 41 Ukrainian border guards and 18 customs officials began inspecting the Russian aid at the border crossing, defense officials in Kiev said in a statement. Sergei Astakhov, an assistant to the deputy head of Ukraine’s border guard service, said Red Cross representatives would observe the inspections.
Both sides also said that the aid deliveries themselves would be carried out exclusively by the Red Cross.