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Putin promises early end to Ukraine crisis

By Agencies in Moscow and Kamensk-Shakhtinsky, Russia | China Daily | Updated: 2014-08-15 08:24

Aid convoy rolls on as fighting intensifies; 74 civilians killed

Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday that his country will spare no efforts to facilitate an early end to the conflict in south-eastern Ukraine.

"A large-scale humanitarian catastrophe is brewing in southeast (Ukraine) as thousands of people have died and hundreds of thousands become refugees, "Putin told a meeting with Russian lawmakers in the Crimea's resort city of Yalta.

"We are closely following what is happening, ...and we will do everything possible so that the conflict ends as soon as possible, "Interfax news agency quoted him as saying.

Putin urged parliamentarians to strengthen unity with in Russian society, saying the country should not shield itself from the outside world.

Meanwhile, heavy mortar fire was reported in the center of Donetsk, an insurgent stronghold in eastern Ukraine.

A large Russian aid convoy headed toward Ukraine on Thursday, taking a road leading directly toward a border crossing controlled by rebels in the Luhansk region.

Ukraine's government threatened to block the convoy if the cargo could not be inspected, and Kiev announced it was organizing its own shipment of humanitarian aid.

The Russian convoy of more than 200 vehicles had been parked at a military depot in the southern Russian city of Voronezh since late Tuesday amid disagreement over how and where the aid could be delivered to Ukraine, where government troops are battling separatists.

On Thursday, the white trucks, some flying the red flag of the city of Moscow and accompanied by green military vehicles, traveled down a winding highway through sunflower fields and rolling green hills. They turned off that road near the city of Kamensk-Shakhtinsky, driving west toward the Ukraine border crossing of Izvaryne, which is under rebel control.

The route suggested Russia was intent on not abiding by a tentative agreement to deliver aid to a government-controlled border checkpoint in the Kharkiv region, where it could more easily be inspected by Ukraine and the Red Cross. Moscow has insisted it coordinated the dispatch of the goods-which it says includes supplies like baby food, canned meat, portable generators and sleeping bags-with the international Red Cross.

Andriy Lysenko, a spokesman for Ukraine's National Security and Defense Council, said Ukraine would be forced to act if the Russians were to refuse to allow inspection of its cargo. "In this case, movement of the convoy will be blocked with all forces available, "he said, though it was unclear what Ukraine's forces could do.

Although the border crossing where the trucks were likely to pass remained in rebel hands, areas south of Luhansk that have been bitterly fought over and the location of forces are in constant flux. It's unclear whether all the towns and villages on the road from the border to Luhansk are controlled by separatists.

ICRC spokeswoman Anastasia Isyuk said talks between the organization, Ukraine and Russia were continuing, but she could not confirm where the Russian convoy was headed.

"The plans keep changing, the discussions are going ahead, and we will not confirm for sure until we know an agreement has been reached, "Isyuk said in Geneva.

Fierce clashes between government forces and rebel fighters have killed 74 civilians over the last three days in east Ukraine's war-torn Donetsk region, local authorities said on Thursday.

"Over the past three days, 74 residents of the region were killed and another 116 were wounded as a result of fighting, "the Donetsk region's health authorities said in a statement.

Xinhua - AP - AFP

 Putin promises early end to Ukraine crisis

A Russian military helicopter prepares to land near a convoy of white trucks with humanitarian aid parked in a field 28 kilometers from the Ukrainian border in RostovonDon region, Russia, on Thursday. A large Russian aid convoy resumed its journey toward Ukraine on Thursday, taking a road leading directly toward a border crossing controlled by rebels in the Luhansk region. Pavel Golovkin

(China Daily 08/15/2014 page11)

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