Shelling Kills Hundreds in Besieged Luhansk in East Ukraine

Ukrainian military in the city of Luhansk in eastern Ukraine

Ukrainian military in the city of Luhansk in eastern Ukraine

© AP Photo/ Petro Zadorozhnyy

LUHANSK, August 23 (RIA Novosti) – Hundreds have died in artillery attacks on eastern Ukraine’s key city of Luhansk as government troops continue to lay siege to the militia stronghold, according to a senior official of the self-proclaimed Luhansk People’s Republic.

“As of today, the death toll has climbed into the hundreds. Hundreds of homes have been torn down, including more than a dozen of apartment blocks and hundreds of private houses,” LPR Deputy Prime Minister Vasily Nikitin told RIA Novosti Saturday.

Luhansk has been left without running water, electricity and phone communications for 20 days as government troops continue to besiege it, pounding indiscriminately militia positions and residential quarters in and around the city. All deliveries of food, medication and fuel had long been stopped due to heavy shelling.

In a recent incident, a mortar round launched by government forces hit a water distribution facility in the inner city instantly killing fifteen people who had come to replenish their supplies, local authorities told RIA Novosti.

City morgues are filled with shelling victims, and the staff find it hard to remove all bodies from the streets leaving some of them exposed to elements for days.

Four months of fighting in Ukraine’s easternmost Luhansk region has left more than 2,000 people dead and 5,000 wounded, with hundreds of thousands fleeing their homes, according to UN reports. More than a half of the refugees have been crossing over into Russia.

On Friday, a humanitarian aid convoy from Russia rolled into eastern Ukraine after being checked by Ukrainian customs officials. A total of 280 trucks delivered grain, baby food, water, medicine and generators to the war-torn region, including Luhansk.

MOSCOW SLAMS NATO OVER RASMUSSEN’S STATEMENTS ABOUT RUSSIA HUMANITARIAN CONVOY

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen at NATO headquaters in Brussels

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen at NATO headquaters in Brussels

 

MOSCOW, August 23 (RIA Novosti) – The Russian Foreign Ministry said the statement of NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen that Russian humanitarian aid convoy entered Ukraine without Kiev’s consent and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) involvement, is another lie.

“In his statement, filled with allegations, Rasmussen claimed that Russian humanitarian aid convoy entered Ukraine ‘without entering the consent of the Ukrainian authorities and without any involvement of the International Committee of the Red Cross.’ This is another lie,” Russia’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement Saturday.

Rasmussen said Friday that by entering Ukraine, Russia’s humanitarian aid convoy, Moscow breached its international commitments, including those it recently made in Berlin and Geneva.

“I condemn the entry of a Russian so-called humanitarian convoy into Ukrainian territory without the consent of the Ukrainian authorities and without any involvement of the International Committee of the Red Cross,” Rasmussen said. “This is a blatant breach of Russia’s international commitments, including those made recently in Berlin and Geneva, and a further violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty by Russia.”

“If NATO really wants to know the truth behind the Russian humanitarian mission, including the degree of ICRC’s ‘involvement’ or ‘non-involvement’, we recommend that they contact [ICRC] headquarters,” the ministry said.

The Russian Foreign Ministry reminded that Moscow received a formal agreement from Kiev authorities for the passage of the humanitarian convoy through the Ukrainian border on August 12.

“We act fully in line with norms of the international humanitarian law,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said Friday.

On August 14, the trucks with Russian humanitarian aid arrived at the border, but Ukraine began customs clearance only on August 21.

OSCE Confirms Humanitarian Convoy to Ukraine Crossed Back Into Russia

OSCE observers near the border between Russia and Ukraine

OSCE observers near the border between Russia and Ukraine

MOSCOW, August 23 (RIA Novosti) – The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) confirmed on Saturday that all 227 vehicles that entered Ukraine as part of a Russian aid convoy have returned home.

“The OSCE Observer Mission (OM) concludes that all 227 vehicles of the aid convoy, which had crossed the Donetsk BCP [Border Crossing Point] towards Ukraine on 22 August, … have returned to the Russian Federation (RF),” the organization said in a statement.

A total number of 220 vehicles of the Russian humanitarian aid convoy returned from Ukraine on Saturday, while seven vehicles of the convoy had returned on Friday evening, according to the OSCE.

Earlier in the day, Russia’s Deputy Emergency Minister Eduard Chizhikov also said that a total of 227 trucks took part in the Russian humanitarian operation. All vehicles were searched by the representatives of the customs and border control, both on the Ukrainian and Russian side. No issues have been pointed out. All vehicles were empty upon returning.

On August 14, the trucks with Russian humanitarian aid arrived at the border, but Ukraine began customs clearance only on August 21.

On Friday, Moscow accused Kiev of deliberately delaying the aid delivery. The same day, Russian convoy crossed the border and arrived in Luhansk, the city being sieged by the Ukrainian army and struggling daily without regular food supplies, water and electricity.

The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry described the convoy crossing the Russian border as a violation of international norms.

Moscow reminded that Russia received a formal agreement from Kiev authorities for the passage of the humanitarian convoy through the Ukrainian border on August 12.

Russia Says Aid Delivery to East Ukraine Legal, Guided by Humanitarian Principles

Trucks with humanitarian aid for southeastern Ukraine on their way to Luhansk, August 17

Trucks with humanitarian aid for southeastern Ukraine on their way to Luhansk, August 17

 

MOSCOW, August 23 (RIA Novosti) – Russia said Saturday its humanitarian assistance mission to turbulent eastern Ukraine had complied with the International Court of Justice ruling that allowed for the delivery of humanitarian aid to people disregarding their political convictions.

“In its actions in southeastern Ukraine Russia strictly abided by international principles, such as humanity and [the need to] protect the civil population from the aftermath of the war,” it said in a statement.

The ministry pointed to the paragraph 242 of the International Justice Court’s ruling dated June 27, 1986 stipulating that humanitarian aid “cannot be regarded as unlawful intervention.”

On Friday, a 280-truck Russian convoy carrying humanitarian aid crossed into Ukraine and delivered the cargo to Luhansk, a city besieged by the Ukrainian army and struggling without regular food supplies, fresh water and electricity.

Luhansk People’s Republic authorities said that distribution of Russian humanitarian aid is due to start Saturday, adding that Luhansk residents hope for more assistance from Russia.

The trucks brought grain, water, baby food, medicine, sleeping bags and electricity generators to the affected region.

Russia’s action prompted anger in Kiev and a number of Western countries who accused Moscow of a military intervention and violation of Ukraine’s borders.

The Russian ambassador to UN, Vitaly Churkin, responded saying the trucks had been stranded at the border for a week, despite the authorities in Kiev giving the mission a go-ahead on August 12. He accused Kiev of dragging its feet on allowing aid to Luhansk and stressed Russia had to act to save perishable goods for the city’s struggling population.

 

Luhansk Residents Welcome First Group of Humanitarian Aid Convoy

Сonvoy of trucks with humanitarian aid is setting off from Ukrainian checkpoint "Izvarino"

Сonvoy of trucks with humanitarian aid is setting off from Ukrainian checkpoint “Izvarino”

 

LUHANSK, August 22 (RIA Novosti) – Residents of the eastern Ukrainian city of Luhansk, controlled by independence supporters, have enthusiastically welcomed the Russian trucks loaded with humanitarian aid which reached the city on Friday.

The trucks reached warehouses and food storehouses, equipped with refrigerators. Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR) authorities have spent a week preparing the facilities for the arrival of the Russian humanitarian cargo.

At least 24 aid distribution stations have been set up so far, twelve of them are due to open on Saturday morning, Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR) authorities said.

The city authorities have already made a list of the residents who are most in need of help, according to Oleg Tsarev, a parliament speaker of the union of the self-proclaimed republics in eastern Ukraine.

“First of all, the aid will be provided to the retired people, as well as to the families where both parents work in the public sector, refugees, those who suffered from bombardments, the disabled and hospital patients,” Tsarev said.

Earlier on Friday, over a hundred of Russian trucks carrying humanitarian aid crossed the border into Ukraine allegedly without clearance by Ukrainian customs officials or a Red Cross escort. Militia in Luhansk already confirmed the arrival of the trucks. According to media reports, around 130 Russia’s aid convoy trucks arrived in the city.

A convoy of 280 trucks carrying food, medicine and other essentials for people in eastern Ukraine set out from near Moscow on August 12. It had been stranded at the border with Ukraine for more than a week.

The humanitarian disaster in Lugansk occurred after the Ukrainian army had blocked approaches to the city. All food supplies to Lugansk were interrupted. The local people were left without drinking water or electricity. Power supply to social facilities had to be urgently restored after artillery shelling.