Ukraine accused Moscow of mounting a cynical attempt to incite a pro-Russian rebellion on Wednesday, as uncertainty surrounded a 262-truck “aid convoy” that appeared to grind to a halt before reaching the border. The stand-off came as violence worsened in eastern Ukraine, with the United Nations announcing that the death toll in the four-month conflict had doubled in the past two weeks to more than 2,000. Government forces are seeking to press their advantage against the pro-Russian rebels, which has stoked fears that the aid convoy is part of a Russian plan to fend off the rebels’ seemingly inevitable defeat. “The level of Russian cynicism knows no bounds,” said Arseniy Yatsenyuk, the Ukrainian prime minister. “First they send tanks, Grad missiles and bandits who fire on Ukrainians – and then they send water and salt.” Arsen Avakov, Ukraine’s interior minister, had said the “Putinist” convoy would not pass, calling it a “provocation by a cynical aggressor”.
Russia responded by saying it had met Ukrainian demands for transparency and that Kiev was reneging on an agreement to deliver aid via the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). Spokesmen for the ICRC, which both Moscow and Kiev say must play a role in any aid delivery, said it was still waiting for a proper list of the convoy’s cargo. “We need much more specific information before we can begin to plan an operation like this,” said Andre Loersch, an ICRC official based in Kiev. Neither side disputes the need for aid in Luhansk, a city of 400,000 that has seen some of the fiercest fighting in the conflict. The Red Cross has described the situation there as “dire,” with civilians living under constant shelling, mains water and electricity cut off and food and medicine running low. At least 2,086 people, including 20 children, have been killed in eastern Ukraine as of Aug 10, the United Nations said. The “very conservative” figure has nearly doubled from 1,129 deaths counted on July 26, the office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights said. More