The Red Cross is to lead an international humanitarian aid operation into Ukraine’s conflict-stricken province of Luhansk with assistance from Russia, the European Union and the US, Kiev has said.
Ukrainian officials took pains to specify that the government was behind the humanitarian convoy initiative, and that Moscow was only one of several countries involved. They also said the mission had the backing of US President Barack Obama.
Monday’s announcement came hours after Moscow said it was dispatching a humanitarian convoy into eastern Ukraine, where pro-Russia separatists are battling the central government in Kiev.
“Apart from deliveries provided by Ukraine, the mission will feature an international component, including aid provided to the International Committee of the Red Cross by the United States, the EU, as well as Russia,” Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
The ministry also laid out specific conditions for the convoy to ensure only civilians in need benefit.
“Humanitarian aid will only be distributed among the civilian population of the Luhansk province, which has long been suffering from the actions of illegal armed gangs,” the ministry said.
Ukraine and the West, who had feared Russia could use humanitarian mission as a pretext for sending troops into rebel-held territory, have previously opposed such initiatives.
Ukraine and its allies have long accused Moscow of arming and supporting the rebels, a charge that Russia has denied.