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News Wrap: Russian convoy rolls into Ukraine without Kiev’s consent

August 22, 2014 at 6:02 PM EST
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JUDY WOODRUFF: The tensions between Ukraine and Russia spiked today when a Russian convoy rolled across the frontier. The move drew widespread condemnation.

Hari Sreenivasan has the story.

HARI SREENIVASAN: After more than a week of waiting, a stream of white trucks crossed the Ukrainian border without the Kiev government’s approval. Russian officials said the trucks carried only food, water, generators, and sleeping bags.

ALEXANDER LUKASHEVICH, Spokesman, Russian Foreign Ministry (through interpreter): We can’t tolerate this kind of outrageous situation. All pretexts to postpone the aid delivery to the people in the area of humanitarian catastrophe are over. The Russian side has decided to act. We warn of any attempts to disrupt the purely humanitarian mission that has been prepared long ago.

HARI SREENIVASAN: The Ukrainian government said it wouldn’t use force to stop the trucks, but it condemned the Russian move.

VALENTYN NALYVAICHENKO, Security Service of Ukraine (through interpreter): We call it this way: This is a direct invasion. These are military vehicles. These are military men with fake documents. This is why this situation is so dangerous.

HARI SREENIVASAN: The convoy headed for Luhansk, a rebel-held city under siege by Ukrainian government forces. The first trucks arrived there by midday, and many appeared half-empty.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk said that proved Russia is lying about the real purpose of the convoy.

ARSENIY YATSENYUK, Prime Minister, Ukraine (through interpreter): Here is their motivation: They are now waiting for several trucks of the so-called humanitarian aid convoy to be simply bombed, and bombed by the Russians themselves, so that they can tell the whole world, this is a junta who wages war on its own people.

HARI SREENIVASAN: The Ukrainians further charged the trucks would transport weapons and carry away the bodies of Russians killed in the fighting. International criticism also poured in.

Rear Admiral John Kirby spoke at the Pentagon.

REAR ADM. JOHN KIRBY, Pentagon Press Secretary: This is a violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity by Russia. Russia must remove its vehicles and its personnel from the territory of Ukraine immediately.

HARI SREENIVASAN: NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen added his voice, saying: “This is a blatant breach of Russia’s international commitments and can only deepen the crisis in the region.”

At the same time, Russian President Vladimir Putin, in a phone call with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, discussed possible steps for a cease-fire in Ukraine. Merkel travels to Kiev tomorrow.

JUDY WOODRUFF: In Iraq today, a deadly new assault today jeopardized efforts to form a new government; 64 people died when a suicide bomber and then gunmen attacked a Sunni mosque northeast of Baghdad in Diyala Province. At least 60 others were wounded. It was unclear if Shiite militias or Sunni radicals from the Islamic State group carried out the attack. But it prompted Sunni lawmakers to quit talks on creating an all-inclusive cabinet.

The White House has signaled that the U.S. military might go after Islamic State forces inside Syria, as well as Iraq. Yesterday, the chair of the Joint Chiefs, Army General Martin Dempsey, said that’s the only way to defeat the militants. Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes addressed the issue today at Martha’s Vineyard, where the president is vacationing.

BEN RHODES, Deputy National Security Adviser: We’re actively considering what’s going to be necessary to deal with that threat, and we’re not going to be restricted by borders. We have shown time and again that, if there’s a counterterrorism threat, we will take direct action against that threat if necessary.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Overnight, U.S. warplanes carried out more airstrikes against Islamic State targets around Mosul in Northern Iraq.

The U.S. today accused China’s military of dangerous conduct in an aerial incident on Tuesday. Pentagon officials said a Chinese fighter jet repeatedly buzzed a U.S. Navy surveillance plane, coming within 30 feet at one point. It happened about 135 miles off China’s Hainan Island. Another U.S. surveillance plane had to land there in 2001 after being hit by a Chinese plane.

To the Middle East now and to Gaza, where gunmen executed 18 Palestinians accused of spying for Israel a day after Israeli airstrikes killed three Hamas commanders. Meanwhile, a mortar round killed a 4-year-old Israeli child. The Israeli military said that it was fired from next to a U.N. school sheltering Gazans. Four Palestinians died in the latest Israeli airstrikes.

The U.N. Human Rights Office now estimates stunning numbers have died in Syria’s three-year-long civil war, more than 191,000 people. That includes 62,000 in the last year alone.

A spokesman for the U.N.’s human rights commissioner spoke today in Geneva.

RUPERT COLVILLE, Spokesman, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: People are dying every single day. The rates of killing in Syria is — if you look at monthly averages, is extraordinarily high still. We’re talking, I think over the last year, around 5,000 to 6,000 per month.

JUDY WOODRUFF: U.N. officials charged war crimes are also being committed on all sides in the Syrian conflict.

The death count in West Africa’s Ebola outbreak has now surged past 1,400. The World Health Organization says nearly 300 more people died since the last count a week ago. More than 2,600 cases are confirmed in four affected countries, Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone, and now Nigeria.

More marches are planned tonight and through the weekend in Ferguson, Missouri, as street violence subsides. About a hundred people peacefully protested in the Saint Louis suburb last night. They carried signs and chanted slogans calling for justice in the police shooting death of Michael Brown. The funeral for Brown is scheduled for Monday.

The Obama administration is trying again to end a fight over contraception coverage under health care reform. New rules they announced today say that church groups and some companies don’t have to pay for birth control if they notify the government of religious objections. Instead, insurers will foot the bill. Supreme Court decisions in June struck down previous requirements.

Federal Reserve Board Chair Janet Yellen gave little indication today of when the Fed might raise interest rates. But, in a major speech, she suggested again it won’t be any time soon.

Wall Street’s reaction was muted. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 38 points to close at 17,001. The Nasdaq rose six points to close at 4,538. And the S&P 500 was down nearly four points at 1,988. For the week, the Dow gained 2 percent. The Nasdaq and the S&P were up more than 1.5 percent.