As previously discussed here.
President Vladimir Putin said on Monday Russia is sending an aid convoy to eastern Ukraine despite urgent Western warnings against using humanitarian help as a pretext for an invasion.
With Ukraine reporting Russia has massed 45,000 troops on its border, NATO said there was a “high probability” that Moscow could intervene militarily in the country’s east, where Kyiv’s forces are closing in on pro-Russian separatists.
Western countries believe that Putin – who has whipped up the passions of Russians with a nationalist campaign in state-controlled media since annexing Crimea from Ukraine in March – could now send his forces into the east to head off a humiliating rebel defeat.
Thousands of people are believed to be short of water, electricity and medical aid due to the fighting, but U.S. President Barack Obama told his Ukrainian counterpart that any Russian intervention without Kyiv’s consent would be unacceptable and violate international law.
In a cautious response, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said it had submitted a document to Russian and Ukrainian officials on delivering aid. However, the independent agency stressed in a statement that it needed agreement from all parties as well as security guarantees to carry out the operation, as it does not use armed escorts.
“The practical details of this operation need to be clarified before this initiative can move forward,” said Laurent Corbaz, head of ICRC operations for Europe and Central Asia.
NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said there was no sign Russia had withdrawn the troops it had massed at the Ukrainian frontier. Asked in a Reuters interview how he rated the chances of Russian military intervention, Rasmussen said: “There is a high probability.”
“We see the Russians developing the narrative and the pretext for such an operation 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,” he said.
NATO fears Moscow would use any aid mission as a cover to save the rebels, who are fighting for control of two provinces under the banner of “New Russia,” a term Putin has used for southern and eastern Ukraine, where mostly Russian is spoken.
Ukraine appears to be pressing ahead with its offensive, undeterred by the presence of what NATO says are about 20,000 Russian troops massed on the nearby border for a potential ground invasion.
Full article: NATO warns Vladimir Putin sending aid convoy to Ukraine as pretext for invasion of ‘New Russia’ (National Post)