Speed Reads

Crisis in Ukraine

Ukraine death toll jumps, as Russian aid convoy heads toward separatist-held crossing

The death toll in the four months of fighting between Ukrainian government forces and pro-Russia separatists rose to 2,086 by Aug. 10, from 1,129 two weeks earlier, United Nations human rights spokeswoman Ceclie Pouilly said Wednesday. The deaths include Ukrainian troops, separatist fighters, and civilians, and they're "very conservative estimates," Pouilly added. It's not clear if the sharp jump in deaths is due to the fierce fighting in Eastern Ukraine or a surge of data.

As the government siege of the last two rebel strongholds, Luhansk and Donetsk, grinds on, with Kiev reportedly making gains, a convoy of about 280 Russian trucks carrying aid for Eastern Ukraine pulled out from a Russian air base in Voronezh early Thursday, heading south toward a swath of the Russia-Ukraine border controlled by separatists.

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On Wednesday, Kiev said it would allow the purportedly humanitarian convoy into the country under certain conditions: The trucks would first be inspected by Ukrainian border guards and officials from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), and the aid would be distributed under supervision from the Red Cross.

The International Committee of the Red Cross says negotiations are ongoing, and it needs a more detailed inventory from Russia. Russian presidential spokesman Dmitri S. Peskov insisted that the convoy "is going on in complete coordination with and under the aegis of the Red Cross."

Ukraine suggests that Russia is using the aid convoys as some sort of pretext to invade. "First they send tanks, Grad missiles, and bandits who fire on Ukrainians and then they send water and salt," Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk said. "The level of Russian cynicism knows no bounds." Russia says it isn't arming the separatists.