Russian Federation: ICRC operations in the northern Caucasus
31-07-2004 Operational Update
The ICRC's operations in the northern Caucasus, focusing on assistance and protection activities, remain hampered by the volatile security environment. On the first anniversary of the unsolved disappearance of one of its Chechen staff, an overview of a region where tens of thousands of people remain in acute need.
Security concerns remain paramount as armed confrontations and attacks continue. Mines and other explosive ordnance are still a daily problem for the civilian population; hostage-taking also remains a serious threat. Arrests continue to take place in relation to the conflict in Chechnya and there are widespread reports of disappearances.
In neighbouring Ingushetia and Daghestan, the question of the return of displaced people to Chechnya gives further cause for concern as in Chechnya appropriate security conditions and available shelter options are still not sufficient to host all possible returnees.
The ICRC's large-scale operation in the northern Caucasus continues to focus on assistance and protection activities. However, project implementation remains hampered by the volatile security environment. There is still no news of its Grozny staff member, Usman Saidaliev, abducted by unidentified armed men at his home in Chechnya in August 2003.
Assisting the vulnerable, visiting detainees
In the first five months of 2004 the ICRC assisted about 100,000 people with food and essential household items in the northern Caucasus. In Chechnya, the assistance was provided to both residents and displaced people, with selection based on economic criteria in the main urban centres. In Daghestan, where very few humanitarian organizations are active, all the displaced from Chechnya were assisted, while in Ingushetia the most vulnerable were included in the distributions.
In and around Chechnya, ICRC delegates visit places of detention, holding talks with the authorities and interviewing detainees in private so as to monitor conditions of detention as well as their treatment. In line with standard ICRC procedures the delegates'observations and recommendations are discussed only with the authorities concerned. The ICRC receives allegations of arrests and intervenes with the authorities, urging them to investigate and provide information.
In Chechnya, for the civilian population, the security situation remains the major concern. The lack of security also affects humanitarian action, limiting access to affected populations.
Support for health services
Reinforcing health services in the region is another priority. The ICRC assists 12 hospitals and the Grozny blood bank and has sponsored training for health workers and doctors as well as for technicians at the Grozny orthopaedic centre.
The mine action programme focuses on the civilian population in general, and children in particular, to help them avoid the dangers of mines and unexploded munitions in Chechnya and Daghestan.
The ICRC's regional communication centre, based in Moscow, coordinate s and supports long-term projects in the Russian Federation and elsewhere in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). This includes programmes to promote international humanitarian law (IHL), especially targeting universities and armed and security forces.
A cooperation agreement was signed between the ICRC and the CIS Inter-parliamentary Association in April to cooperate in promoting IHL treaties and implementing them in CIS countries. The ICRC's Russian-language website was launched in January covering local and international issues of concern to the organization.
Cooperation with the Russian Red Cross seeks to strengthen its operational response capacity by involving it closely in aid programmes in the northern Caucasus, and building up its tracing and IHL dissemination services.
The ICRC has over 380 staff working in the Russian Federation, including 33 expatriates.