According to Stepanov, all of the humanitarian cargo to be sent to Donetsk and Luhansk regions is being stockpiled in Russia’s Rostov region, which neighbors the two Ukrainian regions.
"It is delivered from various regions of Russia, [and] the collection of humanitarian aid is carried out in collaboration with Russian entities," the deputy minister said, adding that the cargo is also transported by the ministry’s trucks from Russia’s Noginskiy rescue centre.
Around 10 trucks left for Rostov region on Wednesday, the deputy minister said.
"The convoy will be formed in this region, [and] once the goods are gathered in the required quantities, then they will go to the Donbas," Stepanov said.
Russia has sent half-a-dozen convoys into Ukraine since August that it claims are bringing humanitarian aid to the people of eastern Ukraine. However, the convoys have never been fully inspected or granted permission to enter the country by the Ukrainian authorities.
Russia also broke previous agreements to allow the International Committee of the Red Cross to inspect and accompany the convoys. The last, sixth convoy, was inspected by the ICRC, but Ukrainian officials were not allowed to approach the vehicles, and could only inspect it visually from behind a fence.
The aid trucks have so far only visited areas of Ukraine’s Donetsk and Luhansk regions that are under the control of Russian-backed armed militants waging an insurgency in the east of Ukraine.
The Ukrainian authorities have said that the aid convoys are actually being used to resupply the militants, and to transport back to Russia goods from Ukrainian factories, as well as the bodies of Russian mercenaries killed in fighting in Ukraine.
Russia has denied this.
When Western journalists inspected some of the trucks of the first convoy in August, they found many of them to be half empty.