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Russia: ICRC activities between January and July 2005

31-07-2005 Operational Update

The following document outlines ICRC activities in the Russian federation between January and the end of July 2005.

 Between January and the end of July 2005, the ICRC:  

    

  • continued discussions with the relevant authorities on access to people arrested in connection with the conflict in Chechnya;

  • began a new family visits programme enabling close relatives to visit ICRC-registered detainees in the penitentiary colonies where they were held; continued to collect allegations of arrest and disappearances and transmitted them to the authorities;

  • conducted a vulnerability needs assessment in the three republics of Chechnya, Daghestan and Ingushetia; retour à la ligne began a new project to maintain medical equipment in the 10 hospitals in Chechnya receiving ICRC assistance;

  • continued to implement long-term programmes to promote IHL among the authorities, armed and security forces and civil society;

  • supported a round table in Moscow on biotechnology and the prevention of harmful uses of life sciences;

  • continued to assist the Russian Red Cross with its tracing service and IHL departments; provided some support to its headquarters and its northern Caucasus branches.

In the northern Caucasus, the security situation worsened, with a series of bloody incidents across the region. Economic conditions remained bleak, with high rates of unemployment. Floods in Chechnya, Daghestan, Ingushetia and Kabardino-Balkaria in spring forced hundreds of families to evacuate t heir homes.

In Chechnya, violence as well as mines and other explosive remnants of war still posed a problem for civilians as they went about their daily activities. Many people continued to suffer from lack of adequate shelter and insufficient access to water, gas and electricity.

    

 ICRC action  

While the security situation in the northern Caucasus remained tense, access to Chechnya for the ICRC improved in 2005, with expatriate delegates making regular visits to the republic. The organization maintained permanent offices in six locations in the region, as well as the delegation in Moscow, with a total of 339 local staff and 27 expatriates.

Protection activities remained an operational priority for the ICRC. The organization continued to discuss detention visits, suspended in 2004, with the Russian authorities, seeking a resumption of the visits according to its standard procedures. The ICRC began its new family visits programme, assisting close relatives of ICRC registered detainees to visit them in the penitentiary colonies where they were held.

The organization continued discussions with the authorities on the issues of missing persons and respect of the civilians, particularly residents and internally displaced people (IDPs) in Chechnya, Daghestan and Ingushetia. It also collected allegations of arrest and disappearances and transmitted this information to the authorities.

Although food assistance programmes in the northern Caucasus ceased in 2004, the ICRC distributed essential household items and implemented micro-economic initiatives there. For an up-to-date understanding of the livelihoods of the people affected by the conflict in Chechnya, the organization undertook a vulnerability needs as sessment across the region.

There were a number of unplanned assistance activities: following heavy rains, the ICRC distributed essential household items to some 2,800 flood victims in Chechnya, Daghestan and Kabardino-Balkaria. And in cooperation with the local branches of the Russian Red Cross, the ICRC supplied around 900 elderly or housebound people and some 650 children with basic relief items in Kabardino-Balkaria and Ingushetia.

Reinforcing health services in the region remained a priority, with the ICRC continuing to provide assistance to 12 hospitals. In cooperation with a local company, the ICRC has launched a new project to help maintain medical equipment.

In order to improve the living conditions of IDPs and the resident population in Chechnya, Daghestan and Ingushetia, the ICRC continued to support the local authorities in the rehabilitation and maintenance of infrastructure, such as water and sewerage works.

 Promotion of IHL  

The ICRC continued its long-term programme of disseminating IHL among the authorities, armed and security forces, and relevant sections of civil society, and assisting with the implementation of relevant IHL treaties.

The Moscow-based ICRC regional communication centre continued to play an important role in coordinating and supporting long-term communication and preventive-action programmes in the Russian Federation and other members of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). Adopting a selective approach, the ICRC targeted universities, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and think tanks concerned with IHL and humanitarian issues. Furthermore, it built contacts with media and publishers that were in a position to influence leaders and decision-makers in both Russia and the CIS.

The organization also worked closely with the Russian Red Cross, particularly its branches in the northern Caucasus, to strengthen the capacities of the national society and to enhance the efficiency of joint projects carried out by the ICRC and the local bodies.

The ICRC still had no news of its Grozny staff member, Usman Saidaliev, abducted by unidentified armed men at his home in Chechnya in August 2003.