Monday

22nd May 2017

Lithuanian FM: Ukraine will not attack Russian convoy

  • Linkevicius spoke to EUobserver from Kiev on Friday (Photo: eu2013.lt)

Lithuania’s foreign minister has said Ukraine will not attack Russia’s “aid” convoy, despite its “illegal” and “provocative” nature.

Linas Linkevicius spoke to EUobserver by phone from Kiev on Friday (22 August) after meeting Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko and foreign minister Pavlo Klimkin.

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He said he did not discuss the convoy with the two men directly.

But he added: “As far as I understand, the Ukrainians are not going to escalate the situation any more … they are not going to attack this convoy”.

“We received information from Ukrainian officials that this is really the case - that they are not going to complicate the situation any further. It’s complicated enough”.

Ukrainian authorities say more than 100 Russian lorries, which Moscow claims are carrying humanitarian aid, crossed the border into east Ukraine on Friday without Ukrainian permission and without the approval of the Red Cross.

The BBC reports the trucks are heading toward Luhansk, a city in east Ukraine held by pro-Russia rebels, with a rebel escort.

The move comes amid concerns that Moscow is trying to use the convoy to drag Ukraine into a full-blown conflict with Russia, to stop Ukrainian forces from taking rebel positions, and to make Poroshenko look weak.

The Russian foreign ministry said in a statement on Friday: “We are warning against any attempts to thwart this purely humanitarian mission”.

Ukraine's security chief, Valentyn Nalyvaychenko, called it a "direct invasion" but also promised not to use force.

Linkevicius echoed Nalyvaychenko, telling this website the Russian move is “indeed a provocation”.

Asked how the EU should react, he replied: “In my view, the whole international community should react. It’s a vivid violation of international law, so we cannot just sit and neglect what is happening. It’s important to discuss this issue, to condemn this act, without delay at the [UN] Security Council”.

The Russian "invasion" comes before German leader Angela Merkel’s visit to Kiev on Saturday and before Poroshenko’s meeting with Russian leader Vladimir Putin in Minsk next week.

Linkevicius noted that Merkel’s visit “shows the importance” of the crisis for the EU’s top policy makers.

But he held out little hope the Poroshenko-Putin talks will lead to a diplomatic solution.

“I don’t see any opportunity for a [diplomatic] breakthrough, rather the reverse is happening - the situation is deteriorating”, he said.

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Analysis

Can Europe afford a Russia trade war?

One trade expert has described the EU-Russia sanctions war as economic “mutually assured destruction”, but strategic considerations continue to trump financial problems for both sides.

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