Ukraine to halt aid convoy

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UKRAINE”S coupist regime says it will stop a 280-truck Russian aid convoy containing 2,000 tons of goods including baby food and sleeping bags from coming into the country.

International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) Ukraine mission spokesman Andre Loersch said it had reached a general agreement with Russia about aid delivery to the region.

But NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen said there was a ‘high probability’ that Russia is using the convoy to cover up a plan to intervene militarily in Ukraine, claiming: ‘We see the Russians developing the narrative and pretext under the guise of a humanitarian operation.

‘And we see a military build-up that could be used to conduct such illegal military operations in Ukraine.’

Russia firmly denied the allegations but NATO said Moscow has massed 20,000 troops along the border – Kiev put the number at 45,000 troops. US President Barack Obama had earlier urged Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko to allow in humanitarian aid, including goods from Russia, to ease civilian suffering.

Poroshenko said the ICRC must co-ordinate aid deliveries to the area that has claimed more than 1,300 lives since April, according to a UN report. The White House said ‘any Russian intervention in Ukraine without the formal, express consent and authorisation would be unacceptable and a violation of international law’.

It was unclear whether the trucks would cross the border into that province, where much of the frontier remains under self-defence forces control, or the government-held Kharkov province. At least 60 miles of the border is currently in rebel hands and the ICRC said it was ready to facilitate any aid operation with the involvement of all sides concerned.

• Ukraine’s Parliament has approved the first reading of an anti-Russian sanctions package that includes 29 measures that are said to be ‘an efficient reaction to potential threats to national interests and security’.

Last week, Ukraine’s Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk introduced a bill to parliament imposing sanctions on Russia that includes a ban on all transit through its territory.

The bill contains 26 restrictions on Russia, but the most controversial is a ban on energy transit, that will halt gas supplies to the EU. Ukraine imports nearly 50 per cent of its natural gas from Russia, which in 2013 amounted to 27.7 billion cubic metres.

In June, Gazprom, Russia’s national gas company, announced it was stopping deliveries to Ukraine for the ‘chronic’ failure to pay its multi-billion dollar gas bill, but would continue to ship 180 billion cubic metres of gas to Europe.