A large Russian truck convoy that raised alarms in the West for driving into war-torn eastern Ukraine despite opposition in Kiev returned to Russia Saturday.
After the convoy delivered supplies of what Ukrainian border officials said was buckwheat, rice, sugar, water and medical supplies to the city of Luhansk, the column turned back across the border into Russia, the New York Times reports. However, the contents of some of the trucks went unchecked, and some in the Ukrainian government and the West believe they could have been used to deliver military gear to pro-Russia Ukrainian separatists fighting government forces in eastern Ukraine.
Officials in the West and in Ukraine’s government sharply protested the Kremlin’s decision to send the truck convoy into Ukraine without an escort by the International Committee of the Red Cross and over the objections of the Ukrainian government in Kiev. NATO’s Secretary General, meanwhile, said the convoy paired with a “major escalation in Russian military involvement in eastern Ukraine” as NATO accused Russia of moving Russian artillery units into Ukraine.
The trucks, which were only partially filled, were “Russian military vehicles painted to look like civilian trucks,” said Caitlin Hayden, a National Security Council spokeswoman, on Friday. Hayden added that because only some of the vehicles were inspected, it was impossible to know what the whole convoy was carrying.