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Friday 19th September 2014
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Russia Aid Trucks 'Took Ukraine Military Goods'

Saturday, 23rd August 2014 08:01

A Ukrainian army spokesman has accused Russia of using aid trucks to take production equipment from two military plants.

A convoy of about 200 vehicles entered the country on Friday without the permission of the Ukraine government - and left on Saturday after dropping its cargo.

However, military spokesman Andriy Lysenko said the trucks had taken equipment from a factory in Luhansk that makes firearm magazines and a Topaz plant that produces radars.

The convoy's departure comes as German Chancellor Angela Merkel arrived in Kiev for talks with Ukraine's pro-Western leaders on the conflict, which has claimed more than 2,200 lives.

Ms Merkel called for a bilateral ceasefire ahead of talks between President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian counterpart Petro Poroshenko in three days' time.

"There must be two sides to be successful. You cannot achieve peace on your own. I hope the talks with Russia will lead to success," said Ms Merkel.

"The plans are on the table - now actions must follow."

Ms Merkel, who did not rule out more sanctions against Russia, is due to hold discussions with Mr Poroshenko.

The Ukrainian President has maintained that pro-Kremlin fighters must leave before the conflict can end.

"The Ukrainian side and our European partners will do everything possible to bring about peace - but not at the price of sovereignty, territorial integrity and the independence of Ukraine," he said.

Ukraine continues to pound rebel strongholds such as Luhansk and Donetsk, where water has been cut off and supplies are dwindling.

At least two civilians were killed by shelling on Saturday.

Sky?s Foreign Affairs Correspondent Lisa Holland said: "If anyone can broker a breakthrough it is Ms Merkel.

"She is one of the few Western - and indeed world - leaders who Mr Putin appears to have time for and both know a further decline in Russian-EU relations will hit each other's economies even more."

Russia rolled in its convoy on Friday, saying any delay in providing humanitarian aid was "unacceptable".

It had been agreed the lorries - which had waited on the Russian side of the border for a week - would only be allowed into eastern Ukraine if they were escorted by the International Red Cross.

However, the charity pulled out after not receiving enough security guarantees as fighting continues to rage.

Kiev's foreign ministry informally allowed the convoy to pass to avoid "provocations".

Russia previously let journalists look inside a handful of the lorries, which it said were carrying 1,800 tonnes of aid including food, water, medicine and electrical generators.

This was questioned by Nato's top military commander, Philip Breedlove, who claimed the trucks looked like a disguised attempt to reinforce separatist forces. Russia denies backing the rebels.

The UN Security Council discussed the convoy on Friday and no country came to Russia's defence, according to British Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant.

Members called it an "illegal and unilateral" action.

Following a phone call, US President Barack Obama and Ms Merkel condemned the act.

They also expressed concern that the large numbers of Russian troops on the Ukraine border and fighting in eastern parts of the country represented a "dangerous escalation".