Russian 'humanitarian' convoy on way to east Ukraine

Russian 'humanitarian' convoy on way to east Ukraine

Moscow (AFP) - A Russian convoy of 280 trucks headed for eastern Ukraine Tuesday carrying "humanitarian supplies" for the people of conflict-torn region, Russian news agencies reported.

"The convoy will bring to residents of eastern Ukraine 2,000 tonnes of humanitarian supplies collected by residents of Moscow and its surroundings," a Moscow region official told the Ria Novosti agency.

The trucks left early Tuesday from a south-west suburb of Moscow after being blessed by an Orthodox priest, television images showed, a day after Russian President Vladimir Putin said Moscow is dispatching aid to Ukraine in cooperation with the international Red Cross.

Russian government officials reached by AFP on Tuesday were unable to confirm if the aid trucks were what Putin was referring to a day earlier.

The International Committee of the Red Cross was not immediately available for comment on Tuesday's convoy.

The West has warned Russia against acting alone on sending aid as it fears that Moscow could use that as a cover to send in troops to east Ukraine where pro-Russian rebels are battling Ukrainian troops.

Russia has insisted that its military would not be involved, but Kiev has signaled that it would only accept such a mission if it was under the remit of the Red Cross.