KIEV, Ukraine — A long column of Russian trucks laden with relief supplies rumbled toward war-torn eastern Ukraine on Tuesday, unsettling Ukrainian officials who warned that any attempt by Moscow to deliver humanitarian aid without their consent would be treated as an invasion.
The convoy's departure — announced on Russian television as an Orthodox priest sprinkled holy water on the trucks — raised fears among Western officials that Russia's planned aid for the devastated region was a ruse to boost the combat capability of pro-Russian rebels there.
By day's end, Russia and Ukraine appeared to have worked out a rough agreement that Russia would deliver the contents of the 198 trucks to the International Committee of the Red Cross at a Ukrainian-controlled border post near the city of Kharkiv.
But important questions remained about the logistics of delivering the aid to hard-hit areas of eastern Ukraine, including whether the Russian vehicles would be allowed to cross the border.
"Russia is playing an absolutely cynical game," Ukrainian Deputy Foreign Minister Danylo Lubkivsky said Tuesday. In eastern Ukraine, "they are trying to use the pretext of humanitarian aid and assistance, and it seems they are just running out of excuses for their aggression."
Ukrainian, U.S. and NATO officials have been cautious about the Russian aid offers, fearing that they could simply be a pretext to boost the rebels.