MOSCOW — Russia has announced plans to send a second aid convoy into rebel-held eastern Ukraine, where months of fighting have left many residential buildings in ruins.
Russia’s unilateral dispatch of over 200 trucks into Ukraine on Friday was denounced by the Ukrainian government as an invasion and condemned by the United States, the European Union and NATO. Even though the white-tarpaulined tractor-trailers returned to Russia without incident on Saturday, the announcement of another convoy was likely to raise new suspicions that Russia is supplying the rebels.
Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Monday that Russia had notified the Ukrainian government it was preparing to send a second convoy along the same route in the coming days.
Lavrov also said the food, water and other goods delivered to the hard-hit rebel city of Luhansk by the first convoy were being distributed Monday with the participation of the International Committee of the Red Cross.
There was no immediate confirmation of that by the Red Cross.
In sending in the first convoy, Russia said it had lost patience with what it called Ukraine’s stalling tactics. It claimed that soon “there will no longer be anyone left to help” in Luhansk, where weeks of heavy shelling have cut off power, water and phone service and made food scarce.
The Ukrainian government in the past few weeks has been making strong gains, taking back territory from the rebels. It believed the aid convoy was a ploy by Russia to get supplies to the rebels and slow down the government advances.
On Sunday, as Ukraine celebrated the anniversary of its 1991 independence from Moscow, President Peter Poroshenko announced the government would be increasing its military spending in a bid to defeat the rebels.