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Ukraine: Urgent need for aid in Lugansk

21-08-2014 News Release 14/147

Geneva/Kiev/Moscow (ICRC) – Staff from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) visited Lugansk yesterday to find water and electricity supplies cut off because of damage to essential infrastructure. 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.

Hundreds of thousands of people have fled the fighting and little aid has reached areas affected by recent hostilities. With phone lines and the internet down, many people are also thought to have lost touch with family members. The three-person team from the ICRC went to Lugansk to make arrangements for the delivery of Russian and Ukrainian aid convoys.

"With fighting ongoing, we urge the parties involved to take constant care to spare the civilian population and civilian objects. In Lugansk and other affected areas, there is an urgent need for essentials like food and medical supplies and to restore contact between separated loved ones," said Laurent Corbaz, ICRC head of operations for Europe and Central Asia, in Moscow for talks with senior officials on the convoy and the ICRC’s wider humanitarian activities in eastern Ukraine.

The ICRC and the Ukrainian Red Cross have delivered part of the aid, consisting of perishable goods, donated by the Ukrainian authorities to a number of towns in eastern Ukraine, including Starobilsk, Lysychansk and Sievierodonetsk. The distribution of goods such as fruit and vegetables has already reached over 20,000 displaced people in shelters and hospitals.

The ICRC has taken all necessary administrative and preparatory steps for the passage of the Russian convoy – which remains at the border, still within Russia, pending customs checks – including sending additional staff to the area and receiving authorization from the Ukrainian authorities to clear the aid as humanitarian cargo after customs inspections. The organization is therefore ready to deliver the aid to Lugansk, provided both Russia and Ukraine agree on the strictly humanitarian nature of this convoy and provided assurances of safe passage are respected by the fighting parties. Under international humanitarian law, the parties to the conflict must respect and protect humanitarian relief personnel, in particular those legally displaying the red cross emblem.

Moreover, attacks must not be directed against civilians or civilian objects, such as homes, schools and medical facilities and vehicles, or against objects indispensable to the survival of the civilian population, such as food and drinking-water installations. Equally, each party to the conflict must, to the extent feasible, avoid locating military objectives within or near densely populated areas.

Indiscriminate attacks are prohibited, as is the use of weapons which by their nature are indiscriminate, i.e. which cannot distinguish between civilians and civilian objects on the one hand and military objectives on the other. Owing to the significant likelihood of harm to the civilian population and damage to civilian objects, the ICRC strongly urges all parties to refrain from using explosive weapons with a wide impact area in urban and residential districts.

For further information, please contact:
Andre Loersch, ICRC Kiev, tel: +380 671 182 481
Victoria Zotikova, ICRC Moscow, tel: +7 495 626 5426 or +7 903 545 3534
Anastasia Isyuk, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 22 730 30 23 or +41 79 251 93 02
Ewan Watson, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 22 730 33 45 or +41 79 244 64 70