Note: The following is based on the plan of action 2005 produced by the ICRC's Moscow delegation.
The ICRC has been working in the Russian Federation since 1992.
From its regional delegation in Moscow, the ICRC carries out a range of programmes aimed at he integration of international humanitarian law treaties in national legislation as well as their teaching and promotion amongst the armed and security forces, universities, secondary schools and civil society. The Moscow delegation supports implementation of these programmes in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, Ukraine and to some extent Central Asia.
In the northern Caucasus, the ICRC runs a major humanitarian operation comprising both protection and assistance programmes for the vulnerable populations affected by the conflict in Chechnya, as well as the promotion of IHL.
The ICRC supports the Russian Red Cross and implements a number of its programmes with this partner.
In recent years, the Russian Federation has ac hieved significant progress in the field of treaty ratification and the integration of IHL at all levels.
The Ministry of Defence and the Ministry of Interior continue to integrate IHL into the training of armed and security forces. Police and army officers attend special courses on a regular basis. Cadets from Russian military institutions have demonstrated their knowledge and competence at the International Competition for Military Academies at the International Institute of Humanitarian Law in San Remo. Significant progress nevertheless remains to be achieved to fully integrate the knowledge of IHL at the level of field operations.
Russian universities show continued interest in IHL and actively participate in current debates about IHL during ICRC regional events and essay competitions. The ICRC increasingly works with an active network of Russian experts and partner organisations, such as the Russian Association of International Law, with whom a co-operation agreement was signed in 2003.
The Ministry of Education continues using the ICRC's manuals in secondary schools across all regions, allowing millions of pupils to read about and discuss the basic humanitarian principles.
The security situation in the northern Caucasus worsened in 2004.
In September all eyes were turned to the North Ossetian town of Beslan, where more than 330 people were killed in a school siege in which armed men held pupils, parents and teachers hostage for three days before the situation reached its tragic climax.
In Chechnya , in spite of some developments improving the daily life of the population, security remained the overriding concern and hostilities continued. The assassination of Chechen President Akhmat Kadyrov in the beginning of May 2004 and the subsequent tensions underlined th e continuing instability in Chechnya. The presidential elections nevertheless took place at the end of August, with the former Chechen Minister of Interior Alu Alkhanov emerging as the winner.
Arrests continued to take place, and there continued to be widespread public reports of disappearances. Hostage-taking also remained a constant threat. Mines and unexploded ordnance still posed a problem for the civilian population as they went about their daily activities.
In Ingushetia , the situation has also been increasingly tense since the beginning of the year, culminating in June 2004 with an attack in the city of Nazran and other places, leaving many dead and wounded.
A number of suicide or bomb attacks causing many victims among civilians in Moscow and other Russian cities were also worrying factors in 2004.
The ICRC still has no news of its Grozny staff member, Usman Saidaliev, abducted by unidentified armed men at his home in Chechnya in August 2003.
Northern Caucasus: humanitarian action 2005
In 2005, the ICRC's large-scale operation in the northern Caucasus will continue to focus on assistance and protection activities. However, implementation of these programmes remains hampered by the highly volatile security environment in the region.
The ICRC office in Nalchik co-ordinates humanitarian programmes carried out from the offices located in Nazran, Grozny, Khasavyurt, Makhachkala, Vladikavlkaz and Stavropol. The ICRC expatriate team remains based in Nalchik, Nazran and Khasavyurt while missio ns to Chechnya will be carried out as conditions permit. Thus a great deal of responsibility is placed on national staff.
Visiting people detained in relation with the conflict in Chechnya is one of the ICRC priorities in the Russian Federation. In 2004, the ICRC faced problems in carrying out visits according to the ICRC's basic standard criteria worldwide, which include notably the following principles: access to all persons detained and to all places of detention, the ability to speak to detainees in private and to repeat visits. The ICRC had to consequently suspend its detention visits. The ICRC is discussing this matter with the competent authorities and remains hopeful that the visits to detainees according to standard ICRC criteria will be resumed in the near future.
The ICRC also seeks to engage the authorities in a dialogue on missing persons and to promote respect for the civilian population, in particular residents and IDPs in Chechnya, Daghestan and Ingushetia.
While some reconstruction work is taking place in Chechnya and the regular payment of state pensions and other benefits make a positive impact on the situation of vulnerable categories of the population, rehabilitation work remains essential and there is still a need for humanitarian assistance. The ICRC assists over 90,000 most vulnerable persons by delivering non-food aid to the resident population in Chechnya and to internally displaced persons in Ingushetia and Daghestan. The ICRC also supports the repair of public infrastructure such as the water supply and sewerage systems in Chechnya, Ingushetia and Daghestan.
Reinforcing health services in the region is another priority, with the ICRC continuing to assist 10 hospitals in Chechnya, one in Daghestan and one in Ingushetia and the Grozny central blood bank. It further supports training for health workers and hospital doctors, as well as of prosthetic-orthotic technicians from Grozny's physical rehabilitation centr e.
The mine action programme helps the civilian population in general, and children in particular, to avoid the dangers of mines and other explosive remnants of war in Chechnya.
Promotion of international humanitarian law 2005
In 2005 the ICRC will maintain the entire range of its prevention activities aiming at promoting IHL, humanitarian issues and fostering support for the organisation.
The ICRC's regional communication centre, based in Moscow, will continue to support delegations in Eastern Europe and Central Asia by supplying translations and publications and managing the ICRC's Russian-language website (www.icrc.org/rus).
The promotion, the ratification and national implementation of IHL treaties in CIS countries will continue in the framework of a co-operation agreement signed between the ICRC and the CIS Interparliamentary Assembly in 2004. In the Russian Federation, the ICRC will continue to co-operate with the competent authorities on the accession to IHL treaties and their incorporation into national legislation.
Russian armed and security forces will be encouraged to further integrate IHL into training at all levels, with a special focus on training packages for troops being prepared for or engaged in the northern Caucasus, as well as to ensure that such rules are observed in practice.
IHL teaching in Russian universities will be supported with a series of regional events strengthened through co-operation with the Russian Association of International La w.
While co-operation with the Ministry of Education on methodology and IHL training will continue, secondary school programmes will be concentrated in 70 regions with a special focus on Chechnya.
Co-operation with the Russian Red Cross and other humanitarian organizations
Co-operation with the Russian Red Cross will focus on strengthening the National Society’s operational response capacity by involving it closely in aid programmes in the northern Caucasus and supporting its tracing service and dissemination of IHL.
Coordination with other components of the Movement, UN agencies and other humanitarian organizations working in the northern Caucasus will remain an essential aspect of the ICRC's operation.