12 Aug 2014

Aid mission agreed for eastern Ukraine

10:37 am on 12 August 2014

Ukraine and Russia say they have agreed to a Red Cross-led humanitarian aid mission to eastern Ukraine despite Western warnings against using humanitarian help as a pretext for an invasion.

The Ukrainian government in Kiev and Western powers had earlier expressed concern that a Russian aid mission in the east could be used as a pretext to bring Russian military forces across the border.

Thousands of people are without access to water, electricity and medical aid in eastern Ukraine, the International Red Cross said.

It said it was ready to begin aid delivery to the rebel stronghold of Luhansk but needed more details about the aid from Russia before it could begin, the BBC reports.

Russia needed to provide information including on the volume and type of items, as well transport and storage requirements, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said. Its spokesperson said the Red Cross did not accept armed escorts.

A spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin said the Russian military would not be involved in the aid convoy.

Earlier, EU Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso warned against unilateral Russian military action "under any pretext".

At least 1500 people have died since Ukraine's new government sent in troops to put down an insurrection by pro-Russia separatists in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions in mid-April.

The fighting has displaced hundreds of thousands of people, many of whom have fled to Russia.

Ukrainian forces have now encircled Donetsk, a city of one million people before the unrest began, and residents are struggling without power or reliable sources of food.

Ukrainian troops have moved in on Donetsk in an attempt to drive out pro-Russian separatists.

Ukrainian troops have moved in on Donetsk in an attempt to drive out pro-Russian separatists. Photo: AFP