The impasse over Russia's humanitarian aid for Ukraine's clash-torn east remained unsettled Saturday, yet an upcoming quadrilateral meeting in Berlin brings forth a glimmer of hope.
A 280-truck Russian convoy carrying about 2,000 tons of relief supplies, including food, medicine, sleeping bags and electricity generators, has been parked about 30 km from the border with Ukraine's Lugansk region since Thursday.
The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry has stressed that border and customs control, as well as registration of the humanitarian aid, must be carried out by "authorized bodies of Ukraine with the assistance of and monitoring by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe."
The ministry added that the delivery, storage and distribution of all humanitarian supplies, including those from Russia, would be exclusively observed by the ICRC.
According to the press service of Ukraine's anti-terror operation, 41 Ukrainian frontier guards and 18 customs officers began inspecting the cargo Friday morning. Once cleared, the humanitarian aid will go to Lugansk region.
However, till Saturday the ICRC has not inspected any of the trucks. It said Kiev has not yet recognized the supplies as humanitarian aid, and the ICRC would take over them only if Russia and Ukraine reach an agreement.
In a statement released Saturday, the Russian Foreign Ministry called on relevant parties to facilitate the transportation of the humanitarian aid, and urged Kiev to implement a ceasefire along the route.
Some Western countries accuse Russia of using the aid as a pretext for "military intervention" in Ukraine. The European Union warned Friday that Moscow should "put an immediate stop to ... the flow of arms, military advisers and armed personnel into the conflict region."
The United States has also warned Moscow against sending "vehicles, persons, or cargo of any kind into Ukraine, under any pretext" without Kiev's permission.
Moscow categorically denies such accusations. Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said in a Friday call with U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel that there were "no Russian military personnel involved in the humanitarian convoy, nor was the convoy to be used as a pretext to further intervene in Ukraine."
Also on Friday, the Russian Defense Ministry denied the alleged "destruction" by Ukraine's army of a "Russian military convoy."
"There is no Russian military convoy that allegedly crossed the Russian-Ukrainian border at night or in the daytime," the Itar-Tass news agency quoted ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov as saying.
It is regrettable that "fake" media reports on social networks, instead of facts, have become the basic of statements made at a higher level in some European states, Konashenkov said.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said earlier during a phone conversation with British Prime Minister David Cameron that Ukrainian artillery units destroyed part of a convoy of heavy military vehicles that crossed into Ukraine from Russia in the early hours of Friday, the Interfax news agency reported.
As the hassle over the Russian convoy rages on, Russian and Ukrainian foreign ministers agreed Friday to hold an urgent meeting with their French and German counterparts in Berlin on Sunday so as to calm the soaring tension.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin said that the sides "need to talk" as tension spiralled. France said it expects the quadrilateral meeting to be a first step towards a Ukraine-Russia peace summit.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier told Bild am Sonntag newspaper on Saturday that he hopes the talks would help "put an end to violent fighting" in eastern Ukraine and provide the region with "urgent and necessary aid."
Also on Saturday, Chinese President Xi Jinping called for efforts to prevent Ukraine from falling into a humanitarian crisis.
In a meeting with Ban Ki-moon, secretary-general of the United Nations, Xi said efforts should be made to "ease the tense situation and avoid acceleration of confrontations and conflicts in an alternative way."
He stressed that China continues to support the UN playing a major part in the process.
Ban said that a political solution, rather than the use of force, is the only right way to resolve the Ukraine issue.