A Russian convoy of hundreds of trucks carrying aid is headed toward southeastern Ukraine, according to Russian media reports.
Russian Emergencies Ministry spokesman Alexander Drobyshevsky said the 280 trucks headed out Tuesday morning and that their exact destination would be decided in talks with Ukraine, according to the Itar-Tass News Agency.
Drobyshevsky said the supplies include 2,000 tons of food, baby food, medicine and drinking water collected by Russian citizens. Ukraine has agreed to allow the aid to be delivered by the International Red Cross.
But the West suspects the aid convoy could be a stealth way to invade the country.
“We see the Russians developing the narrative and the pretext for such an operation under the guise of a humanitarian operation, and we see a military buildup that could be used to conduct such illegal military operations in Ukraine,” NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen told Reuters on Monday.
According to Ukrainian military spokesman Andriy Lysenko, Russia has amassed 45,000 troops at the southeastern Ukraine border. They are supported by 160 tanks, 1,360 armored vehicles, 390 artillery systems, 150 truck-mounted ground-to-ground rocket launchers, 192 fighter jets and 137 helicopters, according to a report in The New York Times.
The Ukrainian military has been battling pro-Russian separatists since March, when Russia invaded Ukraine and annexed the peninsula of Crimea.
Russia has been supplying the separatists with weapons and training in Russia, as well as directly firing onto Ukrainian military positions, according to U.S. military officials.
The U.S. and the European Union have hit Russian with several rounds of sanctions in response, and have threatened more if Russia invades Ukraine.
Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev declared Tuesday that Russia did not fear sanctions.
“No sanctions will have effect on our country. You and I understand this very well,” he said at a youth forum, according to Itar-Tass.
“Power politics against our country has never been effective. You know this very well. So it will fail now as well,” Medvedev said.