This may get messy.
Following days of loud warnings by the West that Putin should not take any moves to send "humanitarian" aid into East Ukraine, due to western fears that this would be merely a pretext for invasion, Putin said on Monday that Russia will go ahead and send an aid convoy to eastern Ukraine anyway.
As was reported earlier, Ukraine announced that Russia has amassed 45,000 troops on its border, following by the now-daily NATO threat that there was a "high probability" that Moscow could intervene militarily in the country's east, so to many this is just the catalyst that the Kremlin could use to enter the civil war-ridden territory to support ethnic Russians, but ultimately to conduct yet another "Crimea." As a reminder, despite the constant grumblings by the West and certainly Kiev, there is zero probability that the annexed territory will be relinquished by Putin. As a further reminder, it was the emergence of local mysterious "peacekeepers" that made the annexation of Crimea a quick and painless transition, one in which not a shot was fired. The concern is that that was merely the appetizer with the shale-rich Donbass region serving as the main course.
According to Reuters, European Commission President Barroso "delivered a blunt message in a telephone call with Putin on Monday. "President Barroso warned against any unilateral military actions in Ukraine, under any pretext, including humanitarian," the Commission said in a statement."
The Kremlin, in its own account of the conversation, made clear that Moscow would indeed send help to largely Russian-speaking eastern Ukraine. We also doubt very much that Putin cared much if at all about any warnings uttered by the unelected Eurocrat.
"It was noted that the Russian side, in collaboration with representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross, is sending an aid convoy to Ukraine," the Kremlin statement said, without saying when the convoy was going.
And now that Putin's mind is made up, Ukraine has no choice but to accept, albeit with its so-called conditions:
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said he supported an aid mission but made clear it had to be an international effort under the aegis of the Red Cross, involving the European Union as well as Russia. Poroshenko said U.S. President Barack Obama had also backed the international plan when they spoke on the telephone on Monday.
The International Committee of the Red Cross made no immediate comment, although last weekend it issued a statement acknowledging receipt of an offer from Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov about organizing aid convoys.
Surely Russia will closely "heed" Ukraine's conditions.
To be sure, NATO is displeased. Quote its Secretary General Rasmussen: "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.
And yet, Russia appears set to enter east Ukraine despite NATO objections.
It goes without saying that all it would take for a full blown escalation, one that not even the algo-driven market could ignore, would be a Russian casualty operating in Ukraine under a "humanitarian" umbrella, wether legitimate or due to a "false flag" attack, before the facade of artificial stability on Ukraine's east border crumbles and what was until now a civil war morps into a full-blown international conflict.
Update 1: the readout of the Obama-Poroshenko phone call:
The President spoke this morning with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko about the ongoing crisis in eastern Ukraine. President expressed his strong support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. The two leaders agreed that any Russian intervention in Ukraine without the formal, express consent and authorization of the Ukraine government would be unacceptable and a violation of international law. President Poroshenko also noted the continued shelling of Ukraine’s territory from Russia. President Poroshenko updated the President on his engagement with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) on the effort to deliver multilateral humanitarian aid to the distressed populations in eastern Ukraine. The President noted the urgency of such humanitarian efforts and encouraged President Poroshenko to continue to exercise restraint and caution in military operations in order to avoid civilian casualties. In light of the ongoing violence and instability, the President and President Poroshenko agreed that all parties should prioritize diplomatic efforts toward finding a political resolution to the crisis.
Update 2: From RIA:
Russian convoy with humanitarian aid will depart to Eastern Ukraine shortly without any military escort - Kremlin spokesman— RIA Novosti (@ria_novosti) August 11, 2014