A convoy of hundreds of Russian trucks that had entered eastern Ukraine without permission returned home on Saturday after supposedly dropping off food and medicine to a rebel-held city. Ukrainian officials expressed concern that Russian sympathizers had loaded “sophisticated military equipment” onto the trucks before they left, reports the Washington Post. An Associated Press reporter, however, got a look into about 40 of the trucks as they crossed the border and “confirmed they were empty.” The convoy’s quick U-turn suggests that “at least for a moment, President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia had scored a public relations victory, especially on the domestic front,” notes the New York Times.
Russia insists the trucks were only carrying humanitarian aid. But regardless, NATO has said it sees increasing evidence that Russian troops are active inside Ukraine and are launching attacks against Ukrainian troops from both sides of the border. Little wonder then that German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that tightening control over the Ukraine-Russia border is critical in order to ease tensions in the region. Merkel was in Kiev Saturday in advance of a meeting between Russian and Ukrainian leaders next week, reports Reuters. “Now we need a two-sided ceasefire linked to a clear controlling of the Russian-Ukrainian border, otherwise peace won’t be achieved,” Merkel said.