Russia denies military involvement with convoy

The head of Russia’s defense ministry on Friday told U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel that no Russian troops were involved with hundreds of trucks meant to deliver humanitarian supplies into eastern Ukraine.

Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu “guaranteed” that no military personnel were attached to the estimated 250-truck convoy. He also told Hagel that the fleet wouldn’t be used as a pretext for a further intervention in Ukraine, the Pentagon said.

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Shoygu said goods contained in the vehicles would be delivered and distributed under the auspices of the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Hagel had requested “clarification” regarding the convoy's purpose. Hagel and Shoygu spoke by phone.

Ukraine’s military was set on Friday to inspect Russian trucks destined for the city of Luhansk, which is held by pro-Russian separatists.

The U.S. and its allies have voiced concerns that Moscow could use the convoy as a smokescreen for delivering military aid to separatist groups or possibly for an invasion of the former Soviet satellite state.

Shoygu told Hagel that Moscow would meet Kiev’s conditions for inspecting the vehicles.

The two men also discussed the need for one-on-one meetings about the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, according to the Pentagon.

Last month the Obama administration accused the Kremlin of violating the 1987 accord when it tested a banned cruise missile. 

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