Switzerland has sent a convoy carrying 300 tonnes of chemical water treatment products to eastern Ukraine to supply around 3.5 million people in the turbulent Donetsk region with clean drinking water.
This is the first humanitarian convoy of its size to have crossed the contact line between the government-controlled area and the region under the control of non-government forces since the armed conflict began in this part of Ukraine at the beginning of 2014.
The 15-truck convoy organised by Swiss Humanitarian Aid reached the city of Donetsk on Friday, a Swiss foreign ministry statement saidexternal link. Soon after it arrived, the chemicals were pumped into the waterworks reservoir to supply the population on both sides of the contact line with clean drinking water.
“Swiss Humanitarian Aid organised this delivery because the drinking water supply in the conflict zone no longer meets health standards owing to a lack of disinfection capacities, resulting in the spread of diseases like hepatitis A,” the statement said.
The humanitarian convoy is being accompanied by Manuel Bessler, the government's Delegate for Swiss Humanitarian Aid.
It is the first time that the government in Kiev has collaborated with a third country in carrying out a major relief operation in both the government and non-government areas, the statement added.
Heavily armed rebels have been fighting government forces for a year in Ukraine's Donetsk and Luhansk regions.
The West and some experts says Russia has armed the rebels and sent in regular soldiers. Moscow says that any Russians on the rebel side are volunteers.