August 22, 2014 / 9:50 PM / 5 years ago

Under fire for aid move, Russia lashes out at Ukraine, Lithuania

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Russia on Friday defended its decision to send a humanitarian aid convoy into Ukraine without official permission, saying there was sometimes “no chain of command” in Kiev and that Moscow was fed up playing games with the Ukrainian authorities.

Speaking to reporters at U.N. headquarters in New York, Russia’s U.N. ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, also had sharp words about Lithuania, a temporary member of the U.N. Security Council, accusing it of systematically cutting down Russian U.N. initiatives with the aid of the United States and Britain.

Lithuania requested an emergency meeting of the 15-nation council on Friday to discuss the latest development in Ukraine as the NATO military alliance said that Russian troops were firing artillery across the border and within Ukraine in a major escalation of military support for pro-Moscow rebels.

“At times it seems there is no clear chain of command in Kiev, because some assurances are given (to Russia) at a very high level and then others do not give the orders which are required ... by the border police to let the (aid) trucks in,” Churkin said. “That game could not continue indefinitely.”

“We waited long enough and it was time to move,” he added. “And this is what we did.”

After the inconclusive closed-door Security Council session, British Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant told reporters that no country had come to Moscow’s defense, while many council members called the crossing of the aid convoy an “illegal and unilateral” action by Russia.

Churkin disputed the remarks by Lyall Grant, who is council president this month, saying he had received support from China and Latin America. Chile and Argentina are both temporary council members.

The United States, Britain and other Western powers have condemned Russia’s decision to send the aid convoy into eastern Ukraine, where pro-Russian rebels are in control, while Kiev has called it a “direct invasion.”

In addition, U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon voiced “deep concern” about the Russian move.

Churkin said it was hypocritical of Western powers to criticize Russia for sending aid to civilians in eastern Ukraine because the West has been demanding similar moves in Syria.

“They were demanding an arrangement which would allow humanitarians to provide the assistance without the consent of the Syrian government,” he said. “We cooperated with that.”

“I don’t see how with a straight face they can argue against this move of Russia, especially with the background of discussions with the ICRC and the Ukrainian authorities,” Churkin added.

Churkin complained about the “indefatigable delegation of Lithuania, who is always torpedoing all productive, constructive initiatives we have had in the Security Council.” He said the Lithuanians had the backing of Washington and London.

Lithuanian Ambassador Raimonda Murmokaite said Russia’s move violated Ukraine’s sovereignty. She also dismissed Churkin’s charges.

“The Lithuanian mission discards such allegations pointing to a recurrent scenario regarding Russian drafts,” she said, adding that Moscow “could not be more protective of those illegal rebel groups.”

Reporting by Louis Charbonneau Editing by Leslie Adler and James Dalgleish

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