The endless delays hampering the initial deliveries of the Russian humanitarian relief aid to southeastern Ukraine have become intolerable.
A lorry convoy with many hundreds of tonnes of humanitarian relief aid, urgently needed by the people in these regions, has been standing idle for a week now on the Russian-Ukrainian border. Over this period, the Russian side has made unprecedented efforts in all areas and at all levels in order to complete the required formalities. We have met all conceivable and inconceivable demands of the Ukrainian side and have submitted to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) exhaustive lists of food, drinking water, medications, essential items and diesel generators due to be delivered to Lugansk, where they are urgently needed by women, children and the elderly. These people are experiencing the horrors of daily artillery attacks and air strikes that have resulted in an increasing number of killed and wounded and destroyed the entire vital infrastructure in the area. Time and again, we met requests to check and recheck the shipment route, to coordinate procedures for the shipment’s delivery, and have signed the required documents with the ICRC. We have provided all essential security guarantees and have ensured similar guarantees on the part of the self-defense forces. These guarantees apply to the Russian convoy as well as other humanitarian relief aid being sent to Lugansk by the Kiev authorities.
At the same time, Kiev has delayed granting its formal consent required by the ICRC for several days, while repeatedly inventing new pretexts and stepping up attacks on Lugansk and Donetsk that involve military aircraft and heavy-duty armored vehicles, targeting residential areas and other civilian facilities. Over the past few days, the Ukrainian side has been launching ballistic missiles, including the deadly Tochka-U missiles, ever more frequently.
On 21 August, the situation appeared to have been resolved when the Ukrainian authorities finally informed the ICRC of their readiness to start clearing humanitarian shipments for prompt delivery to Lugansk. The Ukrainian side officially confirmed its unconditional consent for the convoy to start moving during a phone conversation between the Foreign Affairs Ministers of Russia and Ukraine. On 20 August, customs clearance and border control procedures were launched at the Donetsk checkpoint. On 21 August, however, this process was stopped, with officials citing much more intensive bombardment of Lugansk. In other words, the Ukrainian authorities are bombing the destination and are using this as a pretext to stop the delivery of humanitarian relief aid.
It appears that Kiev has set out to complete its “cleansing” of Lugansk and Donetsk in time for the 24 August Independence Day celebrations. It seems increasingly credible that the incumbent Ukrainian leadership is deliberately delaying the delivery of the humanitarian relief aid until there is nobody left to deliver this aid to. Quite possibly, they hope to achieve this result prior to the planned 26 August meetings in Minsk.
Russia is outraged by the blatant external manipulation of the international experts involved in preparing this operation. An endless succession of contradictory and mutually exclusive signals and messages we have been receiving is a true indication of behind the scenes games for purposes that have nothing to do with accomplishing a set humanitarian objective. Those who are holding the reins and hampering efforts to save human lives, to mitigate the suffering of sick and wounded people neglect the basic principles of society. We have called on the UN Security Council to promptly declare a humanitarian armistice, but these proposals are being invariably blocked by those who pay lip service to universal human values. Last time, this happened on 20 August, when the United States and some Western members of the UNSC declined to issue a statement in support of a ceasefire during the delivery of humanitarian relief aid to Lugansk by Russian and Ukrainian convoys.
We hereby state once again: All the required security guarantees regarding the passage of the humanitarian convoy have been provided. The ICRC has officially recognised these guarantees. The delivery routes are known, and they have been checked by an ICRC mission. The documents have been drawn up. The shipments have long been ready for inspection by Ukrainian border guards and customs officers who have been waiting at the Donetsk checkpoint in the Rostov Region for a week now. The capitals that display heightened concern for the situation in southeastern Ukraine are well aware of this. The endless artificial demands and pretexts have become unconscionable.
It is no longer possible to tolerate this lawlessness, outright lies and inability to reach agreements. All pretexts for delaying the delivery of aid to people in the humanitarian disaster zone have been depleted. The Russian side has decided to act. Our humanitarian relief convoy is setting out towards Lugansk. Naturally, we are ready to allow ICRC officials to escort the convoy and to take part in distributing aid. We hope that representatives of the Russian Red Cross Society will also be able to take part in this mission.
We are warning against any attempts to thwart this purely humanitarian mission which took a long time to prepare in conditions of complete transparency and cooperation with the Ukrainian side and the ICRC. Those who are ready to continue sacrificing human lives to their own ambitions and geopolitical designs and who are rudely trampling on the norms and principles of international humanitarian law will assume complete responsibility for the possible consequences of provocations against the humanitarian relief convoy. (emphasis added by me – the Saker)
We are once again calling on the Ukrainian leadership, as well as the United States and the European Union, which are exerting their influence on Kiev, to promptly launch negotiations in southeastern Ukraine and start complying with the accords formalised in the 17 April 2014 Geneva Statement by Russia, Ukraine, the United States and the EU on stopping the use of force, mitigating the humanitarian situation and immediately launching nationwide dialogue that would involve all Ukrainian regions.