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Wary U.S. Stresses Kyiv's Terms For Russian 'Humanitarian' Mission


A man takes a picture of a Russian convoy of trucks carrying what Moscow says is humanitarian aid for Ukraine after the convoy stopped along a road near the Russian city of Yelets on August 12.

The United States says Russian “humanitarian” aid bound for eastern Ukraine must clear customs inspections at a Ukrainian government-controlled border crossing and then be transferred to the custody of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) for distribution.

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf stressed that "Russia has no right to move into Ukraine unilaterally."

"We understand the talks are under way for Russia to deliver the aid to the Ukrainian border, where it would be transferred to the custody of the ICRC," Harf told an August 12 press briefing. "Ukraine confirmed with us directly today its readiness to facilitate the arrival of the aid and arrange for its delivery to Luhansk so long as the shipment is received at a border-crossing point controlled by the Ukrainian government in Kharkiv, it passes appropriate customs clearances, that the ICRC takes custody and responsibility for the delivery in Ukraine, and the Russian-backed separatists allow safe access for the delivery of the aid."

“If [the aid] goes through all of these steps, then we would support this,” she said.

Harf voiced concerns that the Russian convoy may be carrying nonhumanitarian supplies.

"We have spoken to the Ukrainians today," Harf said of a proposal for aid delivery to the Ukrainian city of Luhansk. "They have a plan in place that they feel comfortable with. We feel comfortable with it as well, and now the Russians need to deliver."

Those talks were reportedly between U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland and Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin.

Russia's Foreign Ministry said earlier that a humanitarian convoy heading toward eastern Ukraine from Russia would cross the border only "under the aegis of the International Committee of the Red Cross."

Russian officials said on August 12 that a convoy of 280 vehicles carrying some 2,000 tons of aid -- from baby food to sleeping bags -- headed from Moscow to Ukraine.

Ukraine's military said it will not allow the convoy into the country unless it is certified by the ICRC.

The Ukrainian military also said the aid would have to be unloaded from the Russian trucks and transferred by the Red Cross to other vehicles.

It must also enter at a border crossing controlled by the Ukrainian authorities, Kyiv had said.

The ICRC earlier on August 12 said it had no information on what the Russian trucks were carrying or where they were going.

ICRC spokesman Ewan Watson told RFE/RL, "At the moment it is not an International Red Cross convoy, inasmuch as we haven't had sight of the material, we haven't had certain information regarding the content, and the volume of aid that it contains."

With reporting by RFE/RL correspondent Luke Johnson in Washington, Reuters, and Interfax
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