SMOLENSK, Russia -- The first supplies of food aid to Russia under a European Union aid package worth nearly $500 million arrived in the western city of Smolensk early on Thursday despite political tensions over the bombing of Serbia.

"Today is a difficult day in our relations. There are certain differences of opinion between Russia and the European Union about what is happening in the Balkans," Gilbert Dubois, charge d'affaires at the EU's Moscow delegation, told reporters."But what is happening here in Smolensk demonstrates that the friendship and partnership between Russia and the European Union continues despite some differences of political opinions."

Overnight 24 trucks, each carrying 18 tons of German beef, arrived in Smolensk and were being cleared by customs and undergoing veterinary checks on Thursday morning.

Dubois said the trucks were the first of 600 carrying German beef to arrive between now and mid-June.

The next EU food aid, a shipment of Irish beef, is due to land at the port of St. Petersburg on March 30 or 31, although Dubois said it may be delayed by a day or two. Shipments are also expected shortly at the ports of Murmansk and Novorossiisk.