The shooting has reportedly begun in eastern Ukraine, as Russian armor is caught slipping across the border while a convoy of trucks carrying humanitarian supplies awaits approval. From Reuters:
A Ukrainian military spokesman said Friday that Ukraine forces have engaged a Russian armored column on Ukrainian soil and “part of it no longer exists.”
Russia’s foreign ministry, meanwhile, said Ukrainian forces are engaging in intense fighting in Eastern Ukraine to stop humanitarian aid to the region.
It is unclear whether the fighting is focused on an armored vehicle convoy or the aid shipments.
Which would be a strong argument for not putting armored convoys anywhere in the vicinity of humanitarian aid shipments. Speaking of which, according to the Wall Street Journal, the trucks full of humanitarian supplies are sitting at a checkpoint on the Ukrainian border while customs officers inspect them and fill out paperwork, including the papers necessary to secure Red Cross approval. That doesn’t track very well with Moscow’s claim that the Ukrainians are “engaging in intense fighting to stop humanitarian aid.”
At the time that WSJ report was filed, it was hoped “the start of customs processing could help ease tension over the convoy of nearly 300 trucks, which Ukraine has said could be used as a prelude to Russian invasion.” If the Ukrainians are blowing up Russian armored columns, I’d say those hopes have dimmed a bit.
The details of the Ukrainian-Russian engagement are still vague, but it doesn’t seem to be a wild rumor; Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has reportedly discussed the destruction of “significant” numbers of Russian vehicles by Ukrainian artillery as they crossed the border with UK Prime Minister David Cameron:
Ukraine destroyed significant part of Russian armored column entering country, President Poroshenko says – statement https://t.co/hNFjD9yNAi
??? Breaking News (@BreakingNews) August 15, 2014
More from Bloomberg News:
Ukraine said its troops attacked and partially destroyed a column of armed vehicles that had crossed the border from Russian territory, while Russia said it was concerned about an attack on another convoy carrying aid.
Ukrainian government troops engaged the vehicles that had arrived overnight through a rebel-held section of the border, Andriy Lysenko, a spokesman for the country???s military, told reporters in Kiev today. Ukrainian soldiers continue to come under shelling, including rounds fired from Russia, he said.
The government in Kiev has for months said that separatist rebels in its easternmost regions are receiving support from Russia, which backs them with artillery fire. Russia has repeatedly denied any involvement in the Ukrainian unrest. The Foreign Ministry in Moscow said it was concerned about potential attempts to disrupt the humanitarian convoy and repeated a call for a cease-fire to allow for aid delivery.
The incursion last night isn???t seen by Ukraine as a new development or a possible start of an invasion by Russia, Defense Ministry spokesman Leonid Matyukhin said by phone earlier. The vehicles were painted white to camouflage the operation as a peacekeeping mission, he said.
We shouldn’t have to wait long for confirmation of just how serious this incident was. If they just lost part of an armored column to Ukrainian artillery fire, the Russians will make their extreme displeasure known.
Update: Cue the ominous dum-dum-DUMMMM music – according to the BBC, many of the 270-odd trucks in Russia’s “humanitarian aid” convoy turned out to be “almost empty.”