With the Russian humanitarian convoy approaching the Ukraine border, there was much confusion yesterday whether Kiev would or wouldn't allow the roughly 280 trucks carrying "stuff" to enter its territory. The confusion rose yesterday afternoon when Russia's Lavrov told reporters in Sochi that Russia, after it asked for Germany's aid in getting Kiev to agree, received Ukraine’s permission for the convoy to enter after agreeing to Ukraine’s proposed route, agreeing that the convoy trucks will carry Ukrainian license plates, and complying with Ukraine’s demand for Ukrainian govt representatives to be on trucks. Turns out Ukraine was just kidding, and as Reuters reports this morning, the Kiev government once again denounced the dispatch of a Russian humanitarian aid convoy to eastern Ukraine as an act of Russian cynicism on Wednesday and said it would not be permitted to enter.
"The level of Russian cynicism knows no bounds," Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk said at a government meeting. "First they send tanks, Grad missiles and bandits who fire on Ukrainians and then they send water and salt."
Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said on his Facebook page: "No Putin 'humanitarian convoy' will be allowed across the territory of Kharkiv region. The provocation by a cynical aggressor will not be allowed on our territory."
The comments reflected suspicions in Kiev and Western capitals that passage of the convoy onto Ukrainian soil could turn into a covert military action to help pro-Russian separatists now losing ground to government forces.
Today, Finland too joined in, perhaps to make it seem that there is a western consensus against Russian humaintarian aid: "Finland’s government said in an e-mailed statement that the conflict in Ukraine “must be resolved through negotiations and to make that happen, it’s of primary importance that Russia stops aiding separatist groups."
However, just to keep the world on its toes, and to make the Ukraine government, now engaging in 4 months of civil war against its own people appear less heartless, it was not immediately clear if this was an outright rejection of the Russian aid or a refusal to allow the Russian trucks onto Ukrainian territory.
Ukraine said on Tuesday that the cargo would have to be unloaded from Russian trucks at the border and transferred under international Red Cross aegis onto other vehicles. The European Union (EU) said the contents would have to be scrutinized.
Kiev accuses Russia of supporting and arming the rebels - who now appear to be on the verge of defeat by government forces - with tanks, missiles and other weapons. Moscow denies this.
To be sure, expect this plotline to change at least several more times before the trucks finally arrive at their border destination, at which point it is anyone's guess just how Russia will escalate tensions should Kiev continue to dig in and refuse to help out the hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians and ethnic Russians caught in Europe's most deadly civial wars in years.