Russia says aid convoy to Ukraine returns home empty

Updated: 2014-08-24 07:23


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MOSCOW - Russia said Saturday the humanitarian aid convoy to Ukraine had returned to homeland empty- loaded, refuting Kiev's allegation of it taking goods back.

"Their saying is perplexing, because both Ukrainian and Russian border guards and customs staff have checked all the vehicles," spokesman for the Russian Emergency Situations Ministry, Alexander Drobyshevsky, told reporters.

Journalists at the scene, including those work for foreign media outlets, could "draw an independent conclusion that all the vehicles are empty," Interfax news agency quoted him as saying.

Earlier on the day, Andrei Lysenko, spokesman for Ukraine's National Security and Defense Council, told a press conference that the country's border guards and customs staff were not allowed to inspect the convoy.

The vehicles were carrying facilities of an Ukrainian corporation that produces modernized Pantsir radar, he said.

On Friday, the 280-truck convoy entered Ukraine in what Kiev called "a direct invasion" as the latter did not give consent for the movement and International Committee of the Red Cross employees were not escorting the mission.

Washington and its allies, fearful of an invasion of Ukraine by Moscow, condemned the move as "a further provocation and a violation of Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity."

Moscow said it was a result of intolerance of Kiev's deliberate delay. Further delay of Moscow's humanitarian mission would have been "unacceptable," Russian President Vladimir Putin told German Chancellor Angela Merkel over the phone on Friday.

Kiev and the West have been objecting Russia's humanitarian aid to those regions, saying Moscow could invade Ukraine under humanitarian guise, which was repeatedly refuted by Russia. The ongoing clashes in southeastern Ukraine between government troops and pro-independence militants have claimed more than 2,000 lives.