Russia claims it’s sending an aid convoy to help people in war-ravaged eastern Ukraine but Tony Abbott is worried it could be an invasion in disguise.
People are right to be sceptical of Moscow’s aid convoy to eastern Ukraine because Russia has previously been “stirring up a world of trouble” inside its neighbour’s borders, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott says.
Russia claims hundreds of trucks will deliver aid to the rebel-controlled territory after an agreement was reached with Kiev.
But Mr Abbott isn’t convinced everything is above board.
“We should be sceptical of Russia’s intentions because plainly Russia has been stirring up a world of trouble in eastern Ukraine for many, many months now,” the PM told reporters in London on Tuesday.
“All of us are in favour of humanitarian assistance but no one wants to see what is effectively an invasion under cover of a humanitarian convoy.”
Mr Abbott said if the trucks really were delivering aid Moscow had to talk to Kiev and work out an acceptable arrangement with the Ukrainian government.
Russia insisted on Tuesday the route of its large aid shipment had been agreed with Kiev and the convoy would be met by the Red Cross after crossing the border.
“The delivery will be done via a border crossing agreed by Russia and Ukraine” near the Russian town of Shebekino, the foreign ministry said in a statement.
“After crossing the Russian-Ukrainian border, the column will continue under supervision of the International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC),” it said.
But officials with both the ICRC and Ukraine’s government said they had no information about what the 280 trucks were carrying or where they were headed.
Mr Abbott has blamed Russian-backed rebels for shooting down Malaysia Airlines flight 17 over eastern Ukraine in mid-July.
Some 38 people who called Australia home died in the disaster.
The Australian PM on Tuesday again insisted it was too early to say if Russian President Vladimir Putin would be welcome at November’s G20 meeting in Brisbane.
“It’s still three months to go before the G20 and my hope is that the response to what Russia has been doing in eastern Ukraine recently may have persuaded President Putin that the costs of his policy are too high and the risk of complete isolation is too great,” Mr Abbott said.