The convoy that Russia claims to have carried humanitarian aid to towns in rebel-held eastern Ukraine on Friday began its return to Russia Saturday, amid international criticism for what was largely seen as a violation of Ukraine's sovereignty.
Russia said the trucks only contained basic supplies, including food, water and power generators for the ravaged Ukrainian towns of Donetsk and Luhansk. However, while Western officials acknowledge that the hundreds of trucks contained aid, they also accuse the Russians of smuggling supplies to assist separatist fighters and consider Russia's entry a direct violation of Ukraine's sovereignty.
“I condemn the entry of a Russian so-called humanitarian convoy into Ukrainian territory without the consent of the Ukrainian authorities and without any involvement of the International Committee of the Red Cross,” said NATO’s secretary general, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, in a statement.
The U.S. government took a similar position.
“At the same time as Russian vehicles violate Ukraine’s sovereignty, Russia maintains a sizeable military force on the Ukrainian border capable of invading Ukraine on very short notice,” National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said. “We recall that Russia denied its military was occupying Crimea until it later admitted its military role and attempt to annex this part of Ukraine.”