At last, the convoy of white Russian trucks reached the no man’s land on the border with Ukraine yesterday. The vehicles, numbering 270, are carrying probably the most controversial cargo in the world. Russian President Vladimir Putin has sent the cargo, which according to the Kremlin contains aid for beleaguered east Ukrainians.
Luhansk in eastern Ukraine has been under siege for a long time after Russia-backed rebels took over major government buildings and derailed Kiev’s administration in the region. The outdone Ukrainian army retreated amid a leadership crisis in Kiev and the resulting chaos.
The dethroning of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich saw chaos rule the country for weeks during which Moscow took over the southern Ukrainian province of Crimea and annexed it amid an international outcry. It was after chocolate baron Petro Poroshenko won the presidential election, which was criticised and termed illegitimate by the Kremlin, that things started moving in Kiev. Poroshenko brought back semblance of order in the capital and tried to retake the eastern provinces occupied by the rebels.
East Ukrainians have been sandwiched between Kiev and Moscow. Their loyalties may lie more to the east— across the border — but they have to realise that it is ultimately Kiev that will help them lead a safe and secure existence. The adventure of Moscow on this side of the border is like a fantasy tale. Putin is trying to make this fantasy tale real by sending 270 large trucks laden with relief material for war-torn Luhansk. It is obvious that citizens there will be obliged to Moscow for this act of kindness, provided the vehicles are allowed to cross the border after a through search by Ukrainian customs. The convoy is accompanied by the International Committee of Red Cross officials, who are present while the vehicles are being scoured.
The lack of trust between Kiev and Moscow didn’t let Ukraine rely on its eastern neighbour. Ukraine was suspicious of the cargo and said it could only enter the country after a thorough search.
Caught in the crossfire between rebels and Ukrainian forces, the people of Luhansk are in need of essential supplies like food and medicine. If Moscow’s cargo is found to be above suspicion, it would be certainly let in — a big relief for the suffering thousands.
The humanitarian aspect of Putin’s ‘cargo diplomacy’ with Russia’s sphere of influence notwithstanding, it is hard to understand why the Poroshenko government would allow aid inside sovereign territory that is in the throes of a civil war of that country’s making.
Whether or not the trucks enter Ukraine, Putin is going to win. If they go in, pro-Russia Ukrainians will never forget Kremlin’s kind act. If not, Putin will still be remembered as one who tried to help them in their hour of crisis•