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Russian Federation: ICRC activities from July to December 2008

24-03-2009 Operational Update

The ICRC conducts wide-ranging activities in the Russian Federation, focusing on restoring family links, income-generating projects for indigent communities in the northern Caucasus, providing sanitation aid and mine-risk education, promoting humanitarian law and supporting Russian Red Cross programmes.

 Restoring family links  

Between July and December, the ICRC:

  • raised the issue of people missing in relation to the situation in the northern Caucasus, as part of its ongoing dialogue with the authorities, and advocated the creation of a federal commission on the missing, whose task would be to prevent the disappearance of people and to centralize information on missing persons and inform their families;

  • sponsored 233 families to visit their detained relatives in the Russian Federation;

  • enabled detainees to keep in touch with their families through its Red Cross message service.

In November 2008, the Inter-Parliamentary Assembly of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) adopted a model law on the missing which had been drafted in consultation with the ICRC.

The ICRC carried out an assessment of the specific needs of the families of the missing – economic, legal, psychological and psychosocial – with the aim of addressing some of the problems they face everyday as they await news of their missing relatives. Already the most vulnerable of these families can apply for an ICRC micro-economic project to increase their income. Over 60 projects were approved between June and November 2008.

Vulnerable families of detainees can also apply to the ICRC's micro-economic project programme – 42 such requests were approve d between June and the end of 2008.

 Micro-economic initiatives  

As reconstruction picked up, the ICRC switched from emergency assistance to programmes aimed at recovery and sustainability, launching micro-economic projects for an increasing number of beneficiaries in Chechnya, Daghestan and Ingushetia.

Between June and November nearly 550 families in Chechnya, 172 in Ingushetia and 34 in Daghestan received support in the form of equipment to enable them to set up small businesses, generate income and reduce dependency on outside assistance. A total of 1, 220 new requests for micro-economic projects have been approved since the beginning of the year.

In the wake of the crisis in South Ossetia in August 2008, the ICRC supported regional branches of the Russian Red Cross in Vladikavkaz and Nalchik in supplying over 2,400 people displaced in North Ossetia and Kabardino-Balkaria with essential household items and hygiene kits.

Within days of the earthquake in Chechnya in October 2008, the ICRC helped the Chechen branch of the Russian Red Cross in providing similar assistance to over 10, 600 people.

 Medical assistance  

In Chechnya, where the health system has been receiving increasing funding from the federal and local authorities, the ICRC concluded a seven-year programme of support to the Grozny prosthetic/orthotic centre after completing a comprehensive cycle of training and structural support. The support included new equipment and tools for the centre to help it improve care for disabled patients. 

The organization also supported two medical courses conducted by the Pirogov Medical Surgical Centre in Moscow and the Scientific Research Work Institute of Traumatology and Orthopedics in St. Petersburg for seven surgeons and four traumatologists from Chechen hospitals.

The ICRC supplied nine hospitals in North Ossetia, Ingushetia and Chechnya with adequate emergency kits to cover the surgical needs of 275 patients.

 Water and sanitation  

The ICRC improves living conditions by rehabilitating water supplies, sanitation, and housing and by enabling local public utilities to provide these services.

In Chechnya the ICRC:

  • worked on four rural water supply rehabilitation projects in Zamay-Yurt, Ersenoy, Tsa-Vedeno and Itum-Kale in partnership with the local administration;

  • continued working on two projects in the villages of Avtury and Bamut with the ChechVodokanal rural water board;

  • provided materials for the repair of houses of elderly beneficiaries of the Russian Red Cross Home Visit Nursing Programme; the houses had been damaged following the earthquake in Chechnya in October 2008.

 Mine action  

The mine action programme helps civilians in Chechnya avoid falling victim to accidents caused by unexploded landmines and weapons. The ICRC promotes the creation of safe areas where children can play and practise sports safely.

The ICRC:

  • supported 10 youth centres in Grozny and rural areas in carrying out mine awareness initiatives involving plays, quizzes and other activities that attracted over 3,000 children and teenagers;

  •  supported the education ministry in organizing the " Mine danger murals " project which conveyed safety messages through mural paintings, and invol ved students from 10 Chechen schools;

  • in cooperation with the authorities, organized a press competition on mine awareness that attracted over 20 individual works, including newspaper articles, TV and radio spots;

  • concluded a four-year programme that constructed 56 play grounds for children living in areas affected by weapon contamination.

 Cooperation with the Russian Red Cross  

In addition to supporting the headquarters of the Russian Red Cross in tracing missing persons and promoting IHL, the ICRC finances certain aid programmes of five Red Cross branches in Chechnya, Daghestan, Ingushetia, Kabardino-Balkaria and North Ossetia.

The ICRC supports the home-visits programme, which works with more than 120 Russian Red Cross nurses to provide services to over 1,200 elderly people. The ICRC also supports Red Cross branches in distributing food parcels twice a year to around 870 beneficiaries of the programme in Chechnya and Ingushetia.

The ICRC:

  • supervised Russian Red Cross-run playrooms for over 1,200 children at five temporary accommodation centres in Grozny and three settlements in Ingushetia – the children are encouraged to interact under the guidance of psychologists and teachers;

  • enabled 240 teenagers to attend computer classes, visit the library and take part in sporting activities at the Russian Red Cross recreational centres in Nazran and Grozny;

  • organized a seminar in St. Petersburg for 20 representatives of the tracing services of national Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies from former Soviet Union republics and Poland;

  • conducted an IHL seminar for IHL coordinators from the East-Siberian, Privolzhsky, North-Western and Southern federal districts of the Rus sian Federation.

 Promotion of international humanitarian law  

Working with the authorities, army and civilians to promote compliance with international humanitarian law (IHL) is a key part of the ICRC's work in Russia.

The ICRC:

  • and the Inter-Parliamentary Assembly of the CIS organized an IHL conference commemorating the 140th anniversary of the St. Petersburg Declaration, an international treaty prohibiting the use of certain explosive weapons, attended by around 1,000 participants from 36 countries;

  • provided legal advice that facilitated the adoption, by the 31st Plenary Session of the Inter-Parliamentary Assembly of the CIS, of the model law on missing persons;

  • organized a photo exhibition, " From Solferino to Guantanamo " in St. Petersburg, highlighting ICRC activities from 1859 to date, visited by around 1,000 people;

  • organized in Grozny, Nalchik, Khassavyurt and Nazran a photo exhibition, " Humanity through the camera " , comprising the works of photographers from several northern Caucasus republics, that was visited by some 1,000 people;

  • delivered five IHL lectures to some 300 students at the universities of Irkutsk, Kazan, Kaliningrad and Moscow;

  • organized, in Chechnya and Ingushetia, sports competitions, " Play by the rules! " in which 150 schoolchildren participated;

  • conducted two seminars in Moscow for 50 regional coordinators of IHL promotion in secondary schools, and for 25 specialists of cadet / pre-military schools.

The ICRC, in conjunction with the Russian defence ministry, participated in:

  • four Senezh IHL courses in the Moscow area for over 120 ministry and military personnel, including representatives from Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, K yrgyzstan, Moldova, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan;

  • two " Senezh-Caucasus " courses on IHL in Vladikavkaz and Botlikh for 31 military officers;

  • a workshop for 51 participants on army legal services; a working group for 20 defence ministry officials on teaching IHL in military institutes and academies;

  • an IHL course for 32 officers from the peacekeeping brigade in Samara military garrison;

  • an IHL seminar for 150 officers/representatives from the main departments of the Volga-Ural Military District Command;

  • an IHL presentation for 70 generals and senior officers;setting up the Northern Caucasus Centre for the study of IHL and human rights law at the Nalchik branch of the interior ministry’s Krasnodar University;

  • 11 IHL presentations for some 300 participants in military training centres of the northern Caucasus;

  • 11 IHL presentations for 2,590 military personnel in Kabardino-Balkaria, North Ossetia, Rostov, Stavropol and Krasnodar regions; and 6 IHL presentations for 295 military personnel in the Chechen Republic.