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Russian convoy: Gift or Trojan horse?

Thursday, August 14, 2014 - 02:26

Russian President Vladimir Putin visits Crimea as tensions deepen over an aid convoy from Moscow bound for eastern Ukraine. Suspicions remain over the trucks' cargo and destination. Ivor Bennett reports.

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On the move again - Russia's aid convoy is edging ever closer. Its latest stop just 40 kilometres from the Ukrainian border. Its final destination is still unclear - so too its cargo. (SOUNDBITE) (Russian) AID CONVOY DRIVER, IVAN NIKOLAYEV, SAYING: "The cargo? It's a selection of stuff like buckwheat, grains, water, sleeping bags. For example I am delivering condensed milk, different stuff in different cars." But Ukraine, and the West, are deeply suspicious, fearing the trucks could be carrying weapons instead. The government says it won't allow the convoy across the border, but it may have little choice. The nearest crossing is controlled by pro-Russian rebels. Kiev is now looking at other ways to hit back. The Ukrainian parliament's approved a new law imposing sanctions on Russian companies and individuals who support the separatists. Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk. (SOUNDBITE) (Ukrainian) UKRAINIAN PRIME MINISTER ARSENY YATSENIUK, SAYING: "This is a basic draft bill which gives the Ukrainian state the right to defend its national interests. If there is a threat to the national security of the Ukrainian state, the head of state through the council of national security and defence will have a right to impose certain sanctions of the same kind that are imposed by our Western partners." But the law's contentious, some arguing more should be done on the ground instead. Two deputies even came to blows in the parliament lobby. Much of the wider conflict has centred around Donetsk - where shells reached the city centre for the first time, killing at least one person. According to the UN, over 2000 people have died since the fighting began in April. Nearly 1000 of those in the last two weeks. The recent resilience of European markets may not last long, says IG's Brenda Kelly. SOUNDBITE (English) BRENDA KELLY, MARKET ANALYST, IG, SAYING: "I do feel that the markets will still need to get to grips with the effects of those sanctions over the coming months and I think it will be to the downward effect on the equity markets. So we're very much on a pivotal area for the time being and I think sentiment can be dented quite easily. For the first time in this crisis though, Russia could be changing tack. In a speech given in Crimea, President Putin said Russia would stand up for itself, but not at the cost of confrontation. A conciliatory tone many will hope is backed up by actions on the ground.

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Russian convoy: Gift or Trojan horse?

Thursday, August 14, 2014 - 02:26