A humanitarian convoy accompanied by Russian military personnel and military vehicles advanced toward the Ukrainian border with the intention of crossing into the country late on Aug. 8, but it stopped short of the frontier, a senior Ukrainian official has said.
Speaking to a live audience on the "Shuster Live" TV news program, Deputy Chief of the Presidential Administration Valeriy Chaly said the transit of the convoy could have provoked a full-scale war between the two countries. He did not say where the convoy had planned to enter the Ukrainian territory.
“Russia tried to make a serious provocation just a few hours ago tonight. This provocation could have resulted in an unpredictable development of events and escalation of threats,” Chaly said. "Through diplomatic work in the first place, the president of Ukraine stopped the provocation."
For its part, Russia dismissed the statement by Chaly as a farce.
"Each time Kyiv is more and more inventive in creating fairy tales," said Maria Zakharova, a spokesperson for the Russian Foreign Ministry.
"The (Ukrainian) National Guard probably have to report about their achievements in the field, so they pretended they have some," she said.
According to Chaly, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko held an emergency meeting with security officials and communicated with world leaders about the incident.
He said Poroshenko had a telephone conversation with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and the head of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Peter Maurer. On behalf of the President, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ukraine Pavlo Klimkin held talks with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, from whom he received assurances that the convoy "will stop," said Chaly.
Ukraine's Foreign Ministry also warned that the convoy would have further inflamed tensions that already seem to be at fever pitch.
"Against the backdrop of repeated violations by the Russian side of the state border of Ukraine and arms, equipment and mercenaries in the Ukrainian side there are reasonable grounds to believe that the said convoy can be used to further escalate the tension and lead to further complication of the situation of residents of Donbass," read the ministry's statement.
The Russian action was presented to be in cooperation with the Red Cross, Chaly said. However, he and the Ukrainian news site Ukrainska Pravda reported that the Red Cross denied any involvement with the humanitarian convoy.
On Aug. 6, First Deputy Head of the Presidential Administration of Ukraine Hennadiy Zubko stated that the deployment of any peacekeepers by Russia to Ukraine will be considered as an act of direct aggression.
“The peacekeeping contingent, which has been located near Ukraine-Russia border for more than 5 months, can hardly be called peacekeeping. Therefore, its deployment would be considered direct aggression. I believe that today the international community is not going to approve of the deployment of Russian peacekeeping forces in Ukraine,” Zubko said.
The United States has also sounded the alarm.
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power delivered a stern warning at a Security Council meeting in New York on Aug. 7, after reports showed Moscow has beefed up its military presence on the border, dispatching what NATO estimates is 20,000 troops to the frontier.
"Any further unilateral intervention by Russia into Ukrainian territory, including one under the guise of providing humanitarian aid, would be completely unacceptable and deeply alarming — and it would be viewed as an invasion of Ukraine," Power said.
Editor’s Note: This article has been produced for Kyivpost with support from www.mymedia.org.ua, funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark and implemented by a joint venture between NIRAS and BBC Media Action, as well as Ukraine Media Project, managed by Internews and funded by the United States Agency for International Development.