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Russia keen to help settle Ukraine crisis: Minister

Posted on Aug 25 2014 | IANS

Moscow, Aug 25 : Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov Monday said Moscow is willing to contribute to a solution of the Ukrainian crisis, as he announced plans to send a second humanitarian aid convoy to the eastern part of the country where pro-Russian militias are fighting Ukrainian government forces.

At a press conference, the minister said Russia was willing to participate in the settlement of the Ukrainian crisis "under any format" that proves useful to steer the armed conflict towards a national dialogue, "be it contacts at the level of the Normandy quartet (Russia, France, Germany and Ukraine) or the Geneva format (Russia, Ukraine, US and the EU)".

According to Efe news agency, Lavrov did not rule out a bilateral meeting Tuesday between Presidents Vladimir Putin of Russia and Petro Poroshenko of Ukraine in Minsk (Belarus) during talks scheduled between the European Union and the Eurasian Customs Union integrated by Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan.

The minister expressed the hope that one of the points on the agenda of the talks Tuesday would be the serious humanitarian crisis in the rebel-held Ukrainian regions of Donetsk and Lugansk, under siege by government forces.

He added that his government had sent an official note to the Ukrainian foreign ministry informing it about plans to send a second aid convoy to the area and stressed that Moscow was eager to "agree to all conditions" for the delivery, including the participation of Ukrainian customs agents and border guards.

Civilians in the eastern regions of Ukraine are in desperate need of humanitarian aid due to fierce fighting in the area which has left them without supplies, drinking water or electricity, he argued.

"We expressed our hope for close cooperation with the Ukrainian authorities in agreeing on all necessary formalities, on all conditions for a second convoy to go on the same route with the same parameters," Lavrov said.

"We hope that the time required, given the experience we already have, will not be so long as the first convoy," Xinhua quoted Lavrov as saying by citing the Interfax news agency.

Lavrov called on the Kiev authorities and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to cooperate on the related issues of the second humanitarian convoy.

"For our part, we will continue to contact with militia to confirm safety guarantees, not only for the Russian convoy but also for officials sent by Ukraine," the minister said.

He added that Moscow was ready for complete transparency in issues relating to the delivery of humanitarian aid.

"No attempts to speculate on the humanitarian situation and to abuse it can be allowed," Lavrov warned.

According to the minister, the distribution of the Russian humanitarian aid has begun in Luhansk Monday with the participation of the ICRC staff.

Lavrov also warned Ukrainian and Western media about misinforming the public over events surrounding the humanitarian mission.

"There is enough misinformation on our 'invasions'... there were reports saying the Ukrainian army destroyed a Russian military convoy and Russian airborne assault vehicles carrying certain documents had been seized. It's just absurd," Lavrov said.

On Friday, a 280-truck humanitarian aid convoy entered Ukraine without Kiev's consent and International Committee of the Red Cross employee's escort, drawing fierce condemnation from Kiev as well as serious concerns from major Western countries.

Kiev and some Western countries have been opposing Russia's delivery of humanitarian aid to southeastern Ukraine for fear that Russia "might take the opportunity to invade Ukraine".

Washington and its allies condemned the move as "a further provocation and a violation of Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity".

Russia said Saturday that the convoy had returned home empty, refuting Kiev's allegation of it taking goods back.

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