Rebels in eastern Ukraine block crucial aid to millions

2015-07-28 Vatican Radio

(Vatican Radio)  The biggest supplier of aid to rebel-controlled eastern Ukraine says its mission could end by Wednesday, if Russian-backed separatists continue to block its convoys, despite concerns over severe shortages for many destitute people, including many children.

Listen to Stefan Bos' report:

Aid workers have reason to fear that many of the millions of people in need of humanitarian aid in the region will face more hunger and a lack of medicines, amid fresh Russian military tensions with the West.

The charity foundation owned by Ukraine's richest man and oligarch, Rinat Akhmetov, had been the largest source of aid for the area controlled by pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine.

International groups especially were having difficulty delivering any aid across the front line amid the biggest confrontation between Russia and the international community over the conflict between the rebels and government forces.

Yet the central Ukrainian government in Kiev halted paying pensions and benefits in the region last year.  Akhmetov's aid has been virtually the only lifeline for the most destitute there.

Rebels block aid

But the foundation said rebels have been blocking their convoys for 10 days.

The group warned that if they continue doing so, the foundation would have to shut its distribution points in the east as early as Wednesday.

These developments were also expected to add to the suffering of children in the region where the conflict has killed more than 6,500 people and injured many more.

The Ukraine office of the United Nations children's fund UNICEF is concerned about their plight explained its deputy Representative Rudi Luchmann.  “It's really to draw the international attention to children that are left behind. And I think if you look at the news today nobody is really talking about children being displaced inside Ukraine,” he said.

Aid workers concerned

“It is really important to go back and say children's rights are being violated here and children are suffering. I spoke with a teenage girl in eastern Ukraine and I asked her: 'where are your parents?' And she said: 'I lost my mom and dad'. I didn't know what to say.”

Aid workers are concerned that those for whom life has just begun are now caught up in a wider geopolitical conflict between the West and Russia over the conflict in Ukraine.

Amid the tensions, Russia has announced it will strengthen its naval forces in the Arctic and Atlantic as a response to activities of the NATO military alliance close to its borders.

Russia's plans were outlined in a new naval doctrine, launched on Sunday as the nation celebrated Navy Day.

(from Vatican Radio)