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In this image taken from video a Russian Orthodox Church clergyman blesses a convoy of white trucks with humanitarian aid in Alabino, outside Moscow, on Aug. 12. / Associated Press Television

Ukraine, which has approved a humanitarian relief effort in the eastern region, said Tuesday said it would not allow Russia to bring a 280-truck aid convoy across the border because it had not been certified by the Red Cross and could be a cover for a military operation.

The 2-mile long convoy, purportedly carrying about 2,000 tons of humanitarian supplies - including 62 tons of baby food, 54 tons of medication, and 12,000 sleeping bags - left Moscow Tuesday and was expected to arrive at the border Wednesday, the Russian news agency RIA Novosti reports, quoting an unidentified source.

A photo carried by the news agency shows long lines of trucks, covered with white canopies, lined up at a staging area.

A report by the pro-Kremlin TV channel NTV showed a Russian Orthodox priest sprinkling holy water on the trucks before leaving the depot.

The Kiev government on Monday approved a multinational relief effort, led by the Red Cross, for the rebel stronghold of Luhansk, a city of 425,000 near the Russian border that has been besieged by Ukrainian troops.

Four months of fighting between Ukrainian troops and Russia-backed rebels have claimed more than 1,300 lives, according to a U.N. report.

Luhansk has been without electricity or water for almost three weeks, according to the city administration's press service, Interfax Ukraine reports.

"The situation in the city has been critical for the past 10 days," the statement said. "The regional center has no access to power, water, mobile or fixed telephone services."

Andriy Lysenko, a spokesman for Ukraine's National Security and Defense Council, said Tuesday the Russian convoy will not be allowed across the border.

"This convoy is not a certified convoy. It is not certified by the International Committee of the Red Cross," Lysenko said.

Lysenko also showed a covertly filmed video purportedly showing vehicles similar to those sent from Moscow on Tuesday parked at a military base in Russia. One frame displayed by Lysenko shows uniformed troops in front of one of the trucks.

Andre Loersch, a spokesman for the Red Cross mission in Ukraine, said the organization had reached a general agreement about delivery of humanitarian aid to the region, but had "no information about the content" of the Russian trucks and did not know where they were headed.

"At this stage we have no agreement on this, and it looks like the initiative of the Russian Federation," he said.

Ukraine presidential aide Valery Chaly told reporters that the cargo would be reloaded onto other vehicles by the Red Cross at the border, according to Reuters.

"We will not allow any escort by the emergencies ministry of Russia or by the military (onto Ukrainian territory). Everything will be under the control of the Ukrainian side," Chaly said.

Alexander Drobyshevsky, a spokesman for Russia's emergency ministry that is conducting the mission, told the Associated Press that his organization had "not yet defined" where the trucks would cross the border. He said it could take several days for them to reach Ukraine.

French President Francois Hollande discussed the aid delivery with Russian President Vladimir Putin, saying "he emphasized the strong fears evoked by a unilateral Russian mission in Ukrainian territory."

Hollande told Putin on Tuesday morning that any mission must be multilateral and have the agreement of the Red Cross and Ukraine, according to a statement in Paris.

Contributing: Associated Press

Follow Doug Stanglin on Twitter @dstanglin



Copyright 2014USA TODAY

Read the original story: Ukraine to deny access to Russian aid convoy

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