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‘I regret Russian aid convoy issue became highly-politicized’ – UN humanitarian chief

Published time: August 23, 2014 20:44
Edited time: August 23, 2014 21:49

United Nations (U.N.) Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos gestures, at an U.N. humanitarian assistance for refugees point in the eastern Ukrainian town of Slaviansk August 23, 2014 (Reuters / Valentyn Ogirenko)

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The UN recognizes the dire situation in east Ukraine, and underlines the importance of avoiding politicizing humanitarian issues, as happened with the Russian aid convoy, UN humanitarian chief Valerie Amos told RT.

The situation in east Ukraine, where fighting between the Kiev troops and militia continues, is deteriorating, Valerie Amos, the UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator said in an interview with RT Saturday.

“We are very concerned that the situation is getting worse because the fighting has not stopped. In the east, where the fighting continues, we still have a lot of people in need of humanitarian aid,” she said.

Baroness Amos is on a trip to Ukraine and has visited several eastern regions, including Slavyansk (Sloviansk in Ukrainian language). The city used to be a militia stronghold until government forces regained control over the area in July following fierce fighting.

United Nations (U.N.) Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos (C) has a talk with refugees from eastern Ukrainian towns, in Slaviansk August 23, 2014 (Reuters / Valentyn Ogirenko)

“Today, I was able to meet and talk to people in Slavyansk who have fled the fighting, who basically wanted to go home. That is all they wanted. They wanted peace, stability and security and were worried for those they have left behind,” she said.

The UN official’s visit comes a day after Russia came under fire from the West for sending an aid convoy without Kiev's final approval to Lugansk region.

Lugansk and neighboring areas have been repeatedly shelled lately, which resulted in casualties among civilians. Because of damaged infrastructure in Lugansk, there is no water and electricity supply, and phone and internet lines are also down.

According to the Red Cross, there is an “urgent need for essentials like food and medical supplies” in Lugansk.

When asked why Western countries approved sending aid to Syria without agreeing it with the Syrian government, Baroness Amos said there was a big difference.

“What we have is a Security Council resolution that authorizes through four additional border-crossing points that are not controlled on the Syrian side, by the Syrian government – the United Nations to deliver humanitarian supplies across the border,” she said. “And there is a monitoring mechanism that has been established to confirm that the supplies are of a humanitarian nature. So, it’s very very different. It’s the UN as an independent body delivering humanitarian supplies which are monitored before they cross the border with the authority of the UN Security Council.”

On Thursday, Russia proposed that the UN Security Council issue a decision to support the delivery of the humanitarian aid to Ukraine. However, Moscow’s initiative was blocked by the United States and Lithuania.

“In particular, they proposed to remove from the text calls for a cease-fire and for ensuring the safe delivery of humanitarian aid, as well as the reference to the fact that the humanitarian aid is being sent by the Russian side,” the Russian Ministry said in a statement.

Before entering Ukraine, Russian trucks carrying aid spent a week stuck at the Ukrainian border. The cargo was recognized as humanitarian aid by the ICRC, which inspected the vehicles and was to accompany the convoy but later dropped the plan over security concerns. After days of talks, Kiev also recognized the convoy as humanitarian. But when everything was agreed upon, the Ukrainian side found yet another pretext to postpone giving the aid convoy a green light.

A Russian border guard opens a gate in front of a truck from a convoy that delivered humanitarian aid for Ukraine on its return to Russia at border crossing point "Donetsk" in Russia's Rostov Region August 23, 2014 (Reuters / Alexander Demianchuk)

“We all agree that there is a humanitarian crisis and we should do everything that we can to get aid to those people,” Amos told RT, adding that they want that aid to be delivered “as quickly as possible.”

Meanwhile, the UN official said that in case with Syria “it took the Security Council three years to agree on a resolution that enabled cross-border operations for the UN across border-crossings that were not controlled by the Syrian government”.

According to Amos, “only 34” out of 227 Russian trucks were checked and “the agreement with the ICRC was not adhered to, which is why they did not in the end participate,” she said.

Now all the trucks are back in Russia. RT asked the UN official’s opinion on whether it will help to ease the tensions surrounding the aid convoy.

“I think that there are political issues which need to be addressed between Ukraine and the Russian Federation. What I think is important in terms of the humanitarian aspects of this, is that those aspects are not politicized. One of the important things about humanitarian work is that it’s independent, it’s neutral, it’s about bringing aid to people in desperate need. I regret that this whole issue of the convoy became highly-politicized. And I hope that this does not happen again,” Baroness Amos said.

According to the humanitarian chief, the key thing that “everybody wants” is for the fighting to stop.

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