Russia: Next aid convoy to Ukraine not the last
Moscow - Russia said on Wednesday that its next aid convoy to southeastern Ukraine would be followed by others despite Kiev's fears that they may be used to supply pro-Kremlin insurgents.
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said he expected Moscow to send a second truck convoy loaded with aid into the rebel-held territory "in the nearest future. And I am sure that it will not be the last because assistance there is needed in huge amounts".
Russia sent more than 200 trucks to Ukraine last week without Kiev's permission and in spite of Western fears that an attack on the convoy - either accidental or one staged by the rebels to escalate the crisis - could provide the Kremlin with a formal excuse to order troops into the former Soviet state.
Ukraine denounced the last aid shipment as an invasion. The United States and its European allies also intensified their Cold War-style diplomatic battle with the Kremlin by accusing Russia of violating its western neighbour's territorial integrity.
But the mission was used by Russian media to paint President Vladimir Putin as a leader who cared about the humanitarian crisis in eastern Ukraine, which is not in dispute.
Lavrov said Putin and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko discussed Russia's immediate plans to send another aid mission when they met in the Belarus capital Kiev behind closed doors for nearly two hours on Tuesday night.
"I spoke to the foreign minister of Ukraine at the same time," said Lavrov. "We have grounds to expect to find constructive technical and logistical solutions for sending the second humanitarian aid convoy to the southeast" in the coming days.
Russia's top diplomat added that the leaders of Belarus and Kazakhstan who were also present in Minsk on Tuesday have expressed their own interest in sending aid into the region.