Ukraine inspects Russia aid convoy near border

Russian truck drivers carrying humanitarian aid for Ukraine show the contents of their trucks at a camp near Kamensk-Shakhtinsky, in Russia's Rostov region, Aug. 15, 2014. REUTERS

KAMENSK-SHAKHTINSKY, Russia -- Ukraine said its customs and border service officials on Friday began inspecting a Russian aid convoy parked just beyond its border, a sign that the two countries were taking steps to ease mounting tensions over the shipment.

Sergei Astakhov, an assistant to the deputy head of Ukraine's border guard service, said the cargo would be inspected in the presence of representatives from the International Committee of the Red Cross.

The group of 41 Ukrainian border service representatives and 18 customs officials began inspecting the Russian aid at the Donetsk crossing on Friday morning, defense officials in Kiev said in a statement.

Russian news agencies said Russia was prepared to present all necessary documentation and to hand over the cargo to the Red Cross.

The roughly 200 Russian white-tarped trucks have been parked since Thursday near Kamensk-Shakhtinsky, about 17 miles from the border. Much of the border in this part of eastern Ukraine has been under the control of the pro-Russia separatists.

Russia sent the convoy south after deciding not to abide by an earlier tentative agreement to deliver the aid through a government-controlled border crossing in the Kharkiv region.

Russian military personnel sit atop armoured vehicles outside Kamensk-Shakhtinsky, in Russia's Rostov region
Russian military personnel sit atop armoured vehicles outside Kamensk-Shakhtinsky, in Russia's Rostov region, Aug. 15, 2014, where dozens of heavy Russian military vehicles had amassed.
REUTERS

Ukraine has expressed fears that Russia could use the aid shipment as cover for a military incursion in support of the separatists and threatened to use all means necessary to block the convoy if Ukrainian officials and the Red Cross were not allowed to inspect the cargo.

Adding to the tensions, a dozen Russian armored personnel carriers appeared Friday morning near the aid convoy.

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