Ukrainian and Russian government officials reached a surprising deal on Monday to deliver aid to a city devastated by the Ukrainian crisis.
It's also been the sight of fierce fighting between rebel and government forces, leaving most of its residents without electricity or water. (Video via Press TV)
But relief to its people was hindered by suspicion that Russia would use any aid delivery from Ukraine as pretext for a military invasion.
“The Ukrainian military says no way. They’ll only allow an international unarmed convey to enter with an escort of Ukrainian soldiers."
The U.S. had similar concerns: In Ukraine, urgent humanitarian assistance should be delivered by the international humanitarian organizations that have the expertise, experience, and independence to provide it. It should not be delivered by Russia.
Russia, for its part, denied any ulterior motive, and dispatched an aid convoy that was set to reach Luhansk on Friday.
What happened next is unclear: the Russian government reported it halted its own convoy, while Ukraine said its military stopped it at the border.
But regardless, the two sides were at an impasse — with the city of Luhansk suffering in the middle.
That is, until a surprise agreement was struck Monday, brokered by the International Red Cross.
Al Jazeera reports the details: Ukraine, Russia, the U.S. and the EU will combine resources in a mission led by the Red Cross, with any military intervention strictly forbidden.
It seems like a pretty simple deal. But it might have big consequences for the wider Ukrainian conflict.
The Washington Post called it "a fragile move toward peace" between Russia and its western adversaries
And it's certainly a loss for the rebels who control the city, who Bloomberg reports were demanding a ceasefire as a condition for aid. Luhansk is almost encircled by the Ukrainian military.
"The President reports that some 20,000 troops have gathered near the Ukrainian border, an indication that Russian troops could invade."
On the same day the deal was struck NATO's Secretary General warned there was a "high probability" of Russian military intervention in Ukraine.
The thinking is, as Russian rebels continue to lose ground in Ukraine, Vladimir Putin will feel more pressure to intervene forcefully on their behalf.