Russia to Join International Relief Effort as Ukraine Presses Fight

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from The Wall Street Journal,

Suffering Among Civilians Rises as Fighting Targets Donetsk, Luhansk.

Ukraine agreed to dispatch humanitarian aid, including supplies from Russia, to a separatist stronghold that has been blasted by fighting in recent weeks, after pressure from Moscow and Western capitals to do more to ease civilian suffering.

The agreement Monday came as the Ukrainian military said it was moving closer to cutting off the separatist stronghold of Donetsk, a major urban center that has seen protracted fighting.

The Kremlin initially said Russia was planning to send help under Red Cross auspices. Officials in Kiev later stressed that the Russian contribution would be part of an international package backed by the U.S. and Europe, to be handled by Ukraine with help from the Red Cross.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko confirmed the plans in a call with U.S. President Barack Obama on Monday, Mr. Poroshenko’s office said.

Kiev has insisted that any assistance to areas controlled by pro-Russia rebels be under international supervision and without any accompanying troops, amid fears Moscow could use such a mission as a cover for military intervention.

Mr. Obama on Monday reaffirmed his “strong support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” the White House said, and encouraged Mr. Poroshenko to “exercise restraint and caution in military operations” to avoid civilian casualties.

A spokesman for Mr. Poroshenko said the aid would be routed from Kharkiv, in northeastern Ukraine, to Luhansk, another rebel stronghold in the east that has been hit particularly hard by fighting.

“Apart from deliveries provided by Ukraine, the mission will feature an international component, including aid provided to the International Committee of the Red Cross by the United States, the [European Union], as well as Russia,” Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry said.

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