DONETSK, Russia - Russia pushed the first trucks of a massive aid convoy into war-torn eastern Ukraine on Friday after saying it was tired of reassuring Kiev that it was not being used to smuggle in weapons to pro-Kremlin insurgents.
The decision appeared to have also been taken without the authorisation of an International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) team that is overseeing the diplomatically-charged mission.
"We can no longer stand this outrage, these open-faced lies and (Kiev's) refusal to reach an agreement. Russia has decided to act," the foreign ministry said in a statement.
"Our humanitarian aid column is starting to move in the direction of Lugansk," it said in reference to the devastated eastern Ukrainian city that has suffered some of the most severe recent fighting and has been cut off from water and power supplies for nearly three weeks.
An AFP photographer at the border said the first 10 Russian trucks had crossed the frontier and reached the Izvaryne customs point inside Ukraine.
It was not immediately clear when or if the vehicles would be allowed to move any further. An unconfirmed report by Russia's state-run RIA Novosti news agency said a few of the trucks had already left the Ukrainian checkpoint and started to drive towards Lugansk.
Several of the nearly 300 vehicles had been cleared by both countries' customs authorities on Thursday and were waiting for the green light to enter Ukraine from the ICRC.
Ukraine has expressed repeated fears that Russian may be using the vehicles to smuggle in weapons to separatist rebels who have been battling government forces for more than four months.
The ICRC meanwhile said it would not launch the aid delivery mission until it receives firm security assurances from both Kiev and the insurgents that the convoy will not be attacked.
The Russian foreign ministry appeared to suggest that Moscow has decided to act even without the Red Cross's permission.
"We of course are ready to have (the convoy) accompanied by the ICRC, and for its involvement in aid distribution," it said.
It charged that Kiev was presenting a growing number of "new and artificial demands and pretexts, which is turning into a mockery."
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Vladimir Putin was aware of the convoy's movements but could not confirm if the Russian president himself had issued the order for the trucks to cross into Ukraine.