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Ukraine

Russian official: aid convoy 'starting to move' towards Luhansk

Some trucks from a Russian aid convoy have moved across the border into eastern Ukraine. It was not immediately clear whether they had Kyiv's permission to cross onto Ukrainian soil.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said on Friday that its humanitarian convoy would travel to the eastern Ukrainian city of Luhansk. However, initial reports did not indicate whether the Russian aid column had received permission from Ukrainian authorities to cross the border.

"We can no longer stand this outrage, these open-faced lies and [Kyiv's] refusal to reach an agreement. Russia has decided to act," the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement, according to news agency AFP.

Shortly after the statement was released, reports from the Associated Press news agency and AFP both said that they had seen the first trucks cross the border.

Under an agreement between Moscow and Kyiv, the convoy was to be accompanied by the International Committee of the Red Cross. However, Victoria Zotikova, a spokeswoman for the ICRC in Moscow, told the AFP news agency that the organization was not escorting the trucks because it had not received "sufficient security guarantees" from the fighting parties following heaving shelling in Luhansk overnight.

The convoy had been held up at the border for around a week, as Ukrainian officials questioned the cargo on board the 260 trucks, alleging that Russia might be trying to transport weapons to the separatists. The foreign ministry in Moscow on Friday said that "all excuses to delay sending the aid ... have been exhausted."

Fighting between pro-Russian separatists and the Ukrainian military has displaced more than 415,000 people in eastern Ukraine. Those who remain in areas where clashes have continued face shortages of food and medical supplies, as well as power outages.

kms,nm/msh (AFP, Reuters)

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