Russia's aid rolls into Ukraine as foreign mercenaries back Kiev

VIDEO TRANSCRIPT:

What does the Russian aid convoy heading for Ukraine tell us about Putin’s ambitions?

Professor Stefan Hedlund:

Well the first thing that it tells us is that it is definitely not about army invasion. The Russian army already control sufficient areas of the border to be able to enter Ukraine in any number they wish, at any time they wish. So this is a big public relations nightmare for Ukraine.

The Ukrainian army is shelling civilians in Donetsk and Luhansk. Luhansk city has now been cut off for two weeks almost, and the humanitarian situation is disastrous.

Putin shows that while the Ukrainian army is creating disaster for civilians, the Russian army is supplying humanitarian aid – 2000 tonnes-worth of it. If Ukraine intervenes to prevent that column from reaching Luhansk they will be in the same situation as Israel with respect to Gaza. So they’re damned if they do, and damned if they don’t.

This is very clever from Putin’s side, and it is very popular inside Russia, obviously.

Is there a legitimate requirement for Russia to help victims of the Ukrainian civil war?

Professor Stefan Hedlund:

Well this is a tough one. It depends on whether you believe that the Russians are supporting the rebels. It’s also a question of whether there really is a need for food. I mean, there’s plenty of food, and all the logistics are in Ukraine. You can just go out and buy it and send it there.

So what is morally right and justified here really depends on what you feel about who is mainly culpable for creating this disaster for people in Donetsk and Luhansk.

The Russian version, obviously, is this is created by the anti-terror operation that Kiev is mounting, and Russia is now intervening to help these poor people.

The Ukrainians say that Russia has created all of this and we need to flush out the rebels. And that any talk on their side of giving help is simply subterfuge for an armed invasion.

So it all really boils down to who you think is culpable here, and there are very many different views on that.

Is it right for a democratic country’s army to use foreign mercenaries to fight its wars?

Professor Stefan Hedlund:

Well, this is a very big issue that is going to be increasingly difficult for the government in Kiev to handle. The foreign media are now beginning to pick up on the fact that there are, given the poor state of the Ukrainian army, they have organised two or three dozen volunteer battalions to do the actual frontline fighting that the army is not up to.

And some of these volunteer frontline battalions are staffed by people who have extreme right-wing views. And some are openly flaunting Nazi symbols. And they are attracting, they are like a magnet for neo-Nazis from all over the world coming to Ukraine to fight.

So, whether this is morally justified in order to help them flush out the rebellion in eastern Ukraine is one issue. The other issue is what are they going to do with all these people when the war ends?

This conflict will end one day, and having these bands of heavily-armed foreign mercenaries who like fighting in the streets, having them running around wild is not going to be easy to handle for the Ukrainian government.

So it’s a very debatable proposition that they are using these as frontline troops against the Russian insurgents.

(Photo credit: dpa)