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Ukraine-bound Russian convoy stuck amid bickering

VORONEZH, Russia — Hundreds of Russian trucks carrying aid intended for rebel-held eastern Ukraine remained parked Wednesday in the southern city of Voronezh, their fate shrouded in mystery as Ukraine accused Moscow of plotting to use them as a cover for invasion.

Fighting between government troops and pro-Russian separatists increased as the U.N.'s human rights office released figures showing the number of people killed in eastern Ukraine appears to have doubled in the last two weeks to more than 2,000.

Other than a few local supply runs, the roughly 260 vehicles in the convoy lay idle at a military base in the southern city of Voronezh well into the afternoon, one day after making the 400-mile drive from outside Moscow.

Ukraine and Russia tentatively agreed Tuesday that the aid would be delivered to a government-controlled crossing in Ukraine's Kharkiv region, which hasn't been hit by the months of fighting that have wracked neighboring regions. The cargo would then have to be inspected by the International Committee of the Red Cross.

But accord has soured into acrimony, with the spokesman for Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko accusing Moscow on Wednesday of possibly planning a "direct invasion of Ukrainian territory under the guise of delivering humanitarian aid."

Andriy Lysenko, a spokesman for Ukraine's National Security and Defense Council, said "nobody knows" where the convoy is going but he had information it won't go through Kharkiv.

If the convoy goes farther south across a border region under the control of the pro-Russian separatists the government has been battling for four months, that would certainly not involve the Red Cross and will be viewed with profound hostility by the Ukrainian government.

Russian President Vladimir Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, insisted the aid convoy was on the move inside Russia, but declined to comment on the route. He said the operation was proceeding in full cooperation with the Red Cross.

But Red Cross officials in Ukraine said they have been left in the dark about the whereabouts of the Russian aid.

Russia says the 1,800 metric tons of aid includes goods ranging from baby food and canned meat to portable generators and sleeping bags. It's intended for civilians in the Luhansk region, the scene of some of the fiercest fighting. The regional capital of Luhansk has had no electricity for 11 days and only the most essential goods are available, city authorities say.

Ukraine-bound Russian convoy stuck amid bickering 08/13/14 [Last modified: Wednesday, August 13, 2014 10:16pm]
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