Donetsk tragedy and Karabakh charade

Donetsk tragedy and Karabakh charade

In the history of Russian-Ukrainian relations, the date of 12 August marks the anniversary of a very significant event. On this day, in 2014, the very first column of the so-called “humanitarian convoy” traveled from Russia to the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine.

Eight days earlier, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov had submitted an official appeal to the OSCE, the Council of Europe, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the United Nations, proposing to arrange an international humanitarian mission to the conflict zone. The Russian Foreign Minister noted that Russia had repeatedly tried to send a humanitarian convoy via its Ministry of Emergency Situations, but each time was rejected by the Ukrainian authorities.

On 6 August, the UN Security Council held an emergency meeting on the humanitarian situation in Ukraine at the initiative of Russia. The Russian Permanent Representative to the UN, the now late Vitaly Churkin, voiced the proposal to send Russian humanitarian convoys to Donetsk and Luhansk under the aegis of ICRC representatives. Ukraine and several Western countries – permanent members of the United Nations Security Council – did not support this proposal.

In particular, Samantha Power, US Permanent Representative to the United Nations, said, and this is very interesting: “The US will consider Russia’s unilateral operation to deliver humanitarian aid to Ukraine as a direct invasion.” Didier Burkhalter, then-OSCE chairman, reflected that: “humanitarian aid should be delivered with full respect for the territorial integrity of Ukraine”. Canada, on the other hand, commented that “Russia is once again demonstrating its willingness to ignore Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

These statements, facts and details are undeniably very important. We will need them for the purposes of comparison with another case with similar characteristics, for nine years later, history would repeat itself, as is its wont, this time in Karabakh and in the form of a charade. And Western countries are now “singing” a completely different “song” to a markedly different “tune”. We will discuss this further.

From the outset, the world has understandably suspected that Russian security services could try to use any humanitarian pretext to supply weaponry. The European Commission, which warned Russia “against any unilateral military action against Ukraine, under any pretext, including humanitarian ones,” tried to prevent the dispatch of humanitarian supplies. On 5 August, another meeting of the UN Security Council was held, at which Sir Mark Lyall Grant, UK Permanent Representative to the UN, stated: “It is deeply ironic that Russia is calling an emergency meeting of the Council to discuss a humanitarian crisis of its own making.”

Official Kyiv specified a series of terms for Russia: Ukrainian politicians insisted that the delivery of humanitarian aid should be undertaken under the aegis of the International Committee of the Red Cross or other relevant international organisations, unaccompanied by any Russian security forces. Subsequently, Kyiv developed a more stringent approach, guided by exigencies predicated on the principle of sovereignty, demanding that all humanitarian supplies to its Eastern provinces should proceed from Ukrainian territory, under its proper control, instead of being delivered from Russia in unchecked fashion.

The Kremlin rejected these conditions and tried to break through by force, and the Ukrainian border-customs group, aiming to inspect the goods, was unexpectedly blocked at a “Donetsk” checkpoint, installed by Russia.

The dispatch of a convoy containing so-called “humanitarian supplies”, without Ukraine’s official consent, was rightly considered across the world as a violation of sovereignty and to constitute an act of aggression.

On 22 August 2014, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen condemned “the entry of a Russian so-called humanitarian convoy Ukrainian territory” without Kyiv’s consent, accusing Russia of a blatant breach of its international commitments. France also joined the group, with then-President Francois Hollande expressing his concerns during telephonic contact with President Vladimir Putin regarding the unilateral Russian mission carried out under the auspices of an alleged humanitarian effort. Then former French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius suggested that, under the guise of an innocuous convoy, Russia might be trying to establish a base near Donetsk and Luhansk.


This article originally appeared on on August 6, 2023.