Russian Red Cross volunteers ready to escort aid convoy to Lugansk, E. Ukraine
Russia’s Red Cross is ready to take part in the aid mission in eastern Ukraine, where the humanitarian situation is “critical”, and to escort the Russian aid convoy that is on its way to Lugansk without ICRC accompanying it due to security concerns.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) are holding talks in Geneva over the situation regarding the humanitarian aid to Ukraine, the head of the Russian Red Cross, Raisa Lukutsova, told RIA Novosti on Friday.
She described the situation in the conflict-torn east Ukrainian regions as catastrophic.
Russian Red Cross volunteers are ready to participate urgently in the humanitarian operation in the area.
“The Ukrainian side kept fobbing us off with promises that the [Russian aid] convoy could proceed ‘tomorrow’, ‘the day after tomorrow,’ but they failed to provide security guarantees to ICRC employees,” Lukutsova told the Interfax agency.
“But what’s most important is that there are no food products, medications, and water in the conflict zone. And we, as Russia’s Red Cross, are ready to take part in this humanitarian operation.”
The Russian Red Cross has sent messages to Ukrainian and European branches of the international humanitarian organization, ICRC, and the IFRC informing them about the situation with the Russian aid convoy.
However, they cannot go before they get an approval from the Ukrainian side.
“Everything is being blocked deliberately so that the Russian Red Cross will not be able to participate in the operation just like the ICRC,” Lukutsova said.
— ICRC (@ICRC) August 22, 2014
Earlier on Friday, several dozen Russian trucks carrying humanitarian aid crossed the Ukrainian border and started moving in the direction of Lugansk, after Moscow ordered the convoy to proceed, without waiting for further permission from Kiev.
In Russia’s view, Kiev deliberately held up delivery of Russian humanitarian aid to the Donetsk and Lugansk regions.
“Our convoy with humanitarian aid is starting to move in the direction of Lugansk,” the Foreign Ministry's statement reads. “We are, of course, ready for it to be accompanied by Red Cross representatives and for their participation in the aid’s distribution.”
Russia’s Red Cross head said she considers the foreign ministry’s stance “absolutely right.”
The eastern Ukrainian city of Lugansk and nearby areas have been at the epicenter of ongoing fighting between Kiev troops and militia forces. Thousands of people have fled their homes fearing for their lives, but many still remain in the city, having to cope with daily shelling.
An ICRC team visited Lugansk on Wednesday to make arrangements for the delivery of Russian and Ukrainian aid convoys.
They found “water and electricity supplies cut off because of damage to essential infrastructure,” the group said in a press-release. “People hardly leave their homes for fear of being caught in the middle of ongoing fighting, with intermittent shelling into residential areas placing civilians at risk.”
According to the city council, Lugansk has gone without food, medication and fuel for “a long time.”
“The residents get no salaries, social benefits and pensions,” the council’s press service told Itar-Tass on Friday.
The situation with food is aggravating. Most necessary products can still be found on the shelves in local shops, but people have to queue, even for bread and milk.
City authorities fear that the lack of water, the summer heat and difficulties with rubbish removal may lead to infections breaking out and spreading.