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Armed Conflict

Ukraine border service officers inspect Russian aid convoy

Ukrainian border inspectors have crossed into Russia to inspect a convoy of trucks carrying humanitarian aid. Ukraine has expressed concerns that Moscow could be using the convoy to deliver weapons to pro-Russia rebels.

Ukraine checks convoy's contents

Ukraine said on Friday that its customs and border service officials had begun inspecting a humanitarian aid convoy parked on the Russian side of the border.

"At 10:00am (0700 GMT) checks began of the Russian humanitarian assistance at the Russian border post of Donetsk. Fifty-nine Ukrainian officials are taking part in the inspection," Ukrainian military spokesman Leonid Matyukhin told the AFP news agency on Friday.

The Associated Press quoted a border guard official as saying that the convoy of more than 260 trucks would be inspected in the presence of representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

Russian news agencies, meanwhile, reported that Russia was prepared to hand over all relevant documentation and the cargo to the ICRC.

Documents lacking, said ICRC

The ICRC had previously said on Thursday that it was not yet prepared to get involved in facilitating the aid delivery as a number of its concerns had not been addressed.

Among these were the fact that it had not received a detailed inventory of what was on the trucks.

Ukrainian officials have expressed fears that Moscow could be planning to used the aid convoy as a cover for running weapons to the pro-Russia separatists fighting government forces in eastern Ukraine - or to actually launch an invasion.

Moscow has dismissed those suggestions, saying its intention is to get urgently needed essentials into Luhansk, where the city's residents have been without running water or electricity for almost a fortnight.

Military convoy sighted crossing border

Ukraine's fears might have been stoked by a report by two British newspapers on Friday, which reported that its journalists had observed a Russian military convoy of 23 armored personnel carriers crossing from Russia into Ukrainian territory.

Meanwhile, Lithuania's foreign minister has said that he had information that dozens of pieces of military equipment had entered eastern Ukraine from Russia overnight.

"We are very much concerned about the situation developing because, on the one hand, we are talking very much about this so-called humanitarian convoy but, at the same time, we see that escalation continues, and we have reports that during the night 70 pieces of military equipment again entered through the border," Linas Linkevicius told reporters as he arrived in Brussels for an emergency meeting of European Union foreign ministers on Friday. It wasn't immediately clear who the source of his information was.

The EU foreign ministers are to use Friday's hastily called talks to discuss the situation in eastern Ukraine, as well as the humanitarian crisis in northern Iraq.

pfd/ipj (Reuters, AP, dpa, AFP)

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