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Where there is no law, but every man does what is right in his own eyes, there is the least of real liberty
Henry M. Robert

A Trojan horse from Putin

How not to turn our victory into defeat
13 August, 2014 - 17:59

The situation with the so-called humanitarian convoy of the Russian Federation into Ukraine increasingly resembles a detective. Moreover, everything looks like Russia, which is an aggressor, not only wishes to receive a bonus thanks to this action, but at the same time is trying to impose its agenda on Ukraine.

On the one hand, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin unilaterally informed president of the European Commission Jose Barroso about the dispatch of this aid with the consent of the International Red Cross. On the other hand, Ukraine claims to know nothing about this humanitarian convoy, since Russian authorities did not discuss this issue with the Ukrainian government. In particular, MFA spokesperson Yevhen PEREBYINIS told The Day that “we do not have reliable information on the way and scenario Russian side intends to provide this humanitarian aid.” He also noted that “it is up to Ukraine to determine when and where humanitarian aid will be directed. And usually there is no such thing as any foreign convoy of this aid.”

Deputy Head of the Presidential Administration Valerii Chaly also said that the Ukrainian government does not expect any humanitarian convoys from Russia. “It is an initiative by the president of Ukraine on international humanitarian aid for the population of Luhansk with the participation of the EU, the US, Germany, and other partners. Russia can join them,” he wrote on his Facebook page. According to him, Russia can join other countries, but “in accordance with international regulations, laws of Ukraine, through border checkpoints controlled by us, under the aegis of the International Committee of the Red Cross.”

Nevertheless, Putin’s spokesperson Peskov states that an agreement on humanitarian aid was reached with Kyiv on Sunday. And Ukrainians learned about it from Russia’s president. Moreover, no one in Ukraine explained why we decided to accept help from the aggressor. “Something is wrong with communication in our country,” Aliona Hetmanchuk, head of the Institute of World Politics, commented the situation on her Facebook page.

And then a statement of former president Leonid Kuchma appears that humanitarian aid to Luhansk, sent by Russia under the aegis of the International Committee of the Red Cross, will pass the border between Russia and Ukraine at a customs checkpoint in Kharkiv oblast. In an interview to Interfax-Ukraine news agency, Ukraine’s second president said that “it was decided at a meeting of a contact group on Monday that humanitarian aid will go through Kharkiv oblast, the route towards Luhansk has been determined. The aid will be delivered under the aegis of the International Red Cross, and the column will be escorted by the OSCE representatives.”

And a question emerges here, why does Kuchma inform about such a sensitive issue, but not the Presidential Administration? Moreover, officials from Bankova Street did not give an explanation why Kuchma, who is followed by a train of unresolved cases, participates in a secret contact group on settling Donbas problems.

Well-known Ukrainian politician and public figure Levko Lukianenko clearly stated on the subject: “Kuchma should not have been entrusted with such an important mission. This is absolutely wrong! Some say that you can even make a deal with devil to settle Donbas problems. But they do not understand that if you make a deal with devil, you will settle his problems, not yours.”

In the meantime, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) notes that before this initiative on sending humanitarian aid can be implemented, practical details of this action must be specified. This in particular was pointed out by Laurent Corbaz, head of the ICRC operations in Europe and Central Asia, in a press release that was published on the organization’s website on August 12.

From Valerii Chaly’s Facebook page: “It is an initiative by the president of Ukraine on international humanitarian aid for the population of Luhansk with the participation of the EU, the US, Germany, and other partners. Russia can join them.”

“Today the ICRC met with the Ukrainian and Russian authorities and shared a document which specifies the manner in which such an operation could take place. This includes an agreement by all sides that the ICRC will be allowed to deliver the aid with due respect for its fundamental working principles of neutrality, impartiality, and independence. The document also stipulates, among other matters, that prior to beginning of the operation, the ICRC should receive without undue delay from the authorities of the Russian Federation all necessary details concerning the aid, including the volume and type of items, and requirements for transport and storage,” reads the ICRC press release.

At the Ukrainian office of the Red Cross The Day was told that when a delivery of humanitarian goods from one country to another is organized, senders ask them for assistance, so volunteers can help with unloading. In such case, responsibility for such aid rests partially on the Red Cross. But in case with Russia, the organization did not receive such calls for assistance.

“From the very beginning, nobody addressed the Committee in this matter. Only Sergey Lavrov asked the ICRC to provide assistance in the delivery of humanitarian aid, but Russia was told there should be no convoy coming with aid and the content of aid should be agreed with the country it is sent to. The only convoy that can accompany it can be that of the Red Cross. It is a whole procedure, and if it is adhered to, our people will benefit from it,” comments Valerii Serhovsky, head of the international department of the ICRC in Ukraine. “And the main problem is safe access to destination points. For this, all sides must agree on ceasing fire. But how can it be done and who should the agreement be made with?”

And the situation with the humanitarian convoy was more or less explained at the National Security and Defense Council. Spokesperson of the Council information center Andrii Lysenko said at a briefing that not a single convoy of humanitarian aid that has not been certified by the Red Cross will cross the Ukrainian border. According to Lysenko, within a week Red Cross experts must determine the needs of eastern oblasts population, and only after this assessment is made, will be the aid provided. “Until a decision on quantity, destination, and route of the humanitarian aid delivery is made, it will not appear in Ukraine,” Lysenko said.

However, no one on the Ukrainian side has explained why our country should accept humanitarian aid from the aggressor. Moreover, it can look like a kind of a Trojan horse. At least, such misgivings are voiced abroad. In particular, France suspects that the Russian “humanitarian convoy” that is sent to Ukraine can be a cover of the establishment of a long-term military presence of Russia in eastern Ukraine. This was stated in an interview to France Info radio by foreign minister Laurent Fabius. “We have to be extremely cautious,” he noted. According to him, Russia’s troops that were stationed near the border with Ukraine not far from Donetsk and Luhansk can use a “humanitarian” pretext for an invasion and the West would learn about it only after it had happened. The French foreign minister emphasized that a “humanitarian convoy” was possible only if the Red Cross allowed it.

Speaker of the US Department of State Marie Harf expressed similar doubts. “Russia has no right to interfere with the Ukrainian domestic affairs without Kyiv’s permission,” Harf noted. The US is skeptical about the planned international aid mission in eastern Ukraine because Russia will participate in it. This gives a reason for concerns that Moscow uses it for military invasion, the US Department of State spokesperson emphasized. According to her, the US is going to observe Russia’s actions closely, because Russia has gathered significant forces near the border with Ukraine.

Here a question arises: why does Kyiv not simply refuse such humanitarian gift from its northern neighbor? Moreover, previous experience of the South Caucasus shows that such aid does not end well.

Former Putin’s adviser Andrey Illarionov warns about this. “At the time, the late Eduard Shevardnadze had to agree to the placement of Russian ‘peacekeepers’ and the ‘Ministry of Emergency Situations convoys’ on the territory of Georgia. As a result, the country he ruled temporarily lost two regions, Abkhazia and South Ossetia. The Ukrainian leadership should not forget that a compromise with an aggressor will not save from aggression. It only worsens the situation. An agreement to operations with the participation of Russia’s ‘humanitarian convoy’ means voluntary surrender and further ‘convoying’ of a part of Ukraine’s territory under Russia’s jurisdiction,” said Illarionov in an interview to Gordon.

We hope that the Ukrainian government considers this warning and does not allow the “Trojan horse” from Putin on Ukraine’s ground, and thus will not let our victory turn into defeat.

By Mykola SIRUK, The Day