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Lavrov Claims Humanitarian Convoy Cleared; Kyiv Defers To ICRC

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says agreements have been reached with Ukraine and the International Red Cross that clear the way for Russian humanitarian shipments into eastern Ukraine.

Lavrov made the remarks in Berlin early on August 18, the day after he met for five hours with the foreign ministers of Ukraine, Germany, and France.

A large convoy of trucks that Russia says is filled with humanitarian aid for residents of Luhansk and Donetsk remained in Russia near the Ukrainian border early on August 18.

NATO and Kyiv have expressed concerns Russia would try to deploy military forces in Ukraine under the guise of humanitarian deliveries.

The International Red Cross has agreed to deliver the aid if there are no military escorts, but it was waiting for pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine to guarantee the safety of Red Cross workers.

The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry in a tweet quoted Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin as saying that "Red Cross is to decide on humanitarian aid from Russia entering Ukraine."

Paul Picard, the head of an OSCE border-monitoring mission, said a meeting will be held on August 18 between all parties in an effort to determine the fate of the convoy’s cargo.

Meanwhile, Lavrov said that he “cannot report positive results” at the Berlin talks on establishing a cease-fire between Ukrainian government forces and pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine, nor in starting “a political process.”

He said the only way to achieve national unity in Ukraine is by beginning a political process that features all regions and forces in the country.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry had issued a statement earlier that said an agreement had been reached in Berlin for further talks that could produce proposals for a de-escalation of Ukraine’s crisis.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said the talks on August 17 had been "difficult" but said he thought and hoped there had been "some progress on certain points."

He said the ministers focused on how to bring about a cease-fire in eastern Ukraine, where government forces are battling pro-Russian separatists, and how to improve border controls along the Russian-Ukrainian border.

Steinmeier said the ministers would report back to leaders in their capitals and possibly agree on August 18 or August 19 about how to continue talks.

Kyiv has accused Russia of trying to send fresh military equipment across the border into eastern Ukraine during the weekend.

Ukrainian military spokesman Andriy Lysenko said "a convoy of military equipment, including three Grad rocket launchers, had crossed into the territory of Ukraine" and continued on to the village of Nizhniy Nagolchyk in the Luhansk region.

Meanwhile, a Kremlin spokesman denied claims by pro-Russian separatists that Russia was sending equipment and fighters into eastern Ukraine.

The denial by Dmitry Peskov came after Aleksandr Zakharchenko, leader of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic, said on August 16 that rebels were in the process of receiving about 150 armored vehicles and 1,200 fighters trained in Russia.

With reporting by Reuters, AP, AFP, ITAR-TASS, and Interfax
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