The Red Cross was greatly surprised to hear that Russia was sending a humanitarian convoy to help residents of eastern Ukraine. The ICRC has not yet received the list of goods dispatched from Moscow.
In an interview with Andre Loersch, representative of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), DW tried to find out what the humanitarian aid mission is actually doing in eastern Ukraine.
DW: Mr. Loersch, it seems that all parties to the conflict have concurred that the civilian population of eastern Ukraine should receive humanitarian aid. The parties agreed that supplies should be coordinated by the ICRC. Yesterday, it seemed that this decision was approved by everyone, but now there are conflicting reports about a humanitarian aid convoy en route from Russia. What’s going on?
Andre Loersch: Yes, indeed, all parties agreed, in principle, to let Russia deliver humanitarian aid to Ukraine with the support of the Red Cross. The parties came to the conclusion that humanitarian assistance should be transferred to the ICRC so as to ensure that our employees are involved in its distribution. We then asked the Russian government to provide a specific list of what humanitarian aid will be delivered, whether it be medicine, food or other things.
We still have not received this list. That is why we were so surprised to hear that a humanitarian aid convoy has been dispatched from Russia. This information has confused us; now we want to know what’s really happening. So much different information, including reports from the Russian media, is being announced everywhere that it is difficult to find a common denominator.
This morning, the President of the ICRC talked with the President of Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko. We are in touch with the Ukrainian authorities to find out what’s really going on.
– What conditions are required to launch a humanitarian mission in the Ukraine?
– The ICRC is working in Ukraine, including in the eastern part of the country, where we distribute humanitarian aid. We deliver medicine and distribute food and hygiene items to the Donbas, Kharkiv and Mariupol.
The main condition for our cooperation with the humanitarian mission from Russia is that relief supplies be sent to us for verification. In this case, the transfer must be made at an official control check point at the Ukrainian border. We ourselves determine who needs help and distribute it; we preserve our independence and work in accordance with our approved criteria.
– You mentioned values such as respect for neutrality when working in a conflict zone. How can you preserve your independence vis-à-vis the parties to the conflict and not become a tool for someone else’s propaganda?
– This question was an important part of the negotiations with both parties. We try to remain neutral, and we hope that no one will be able to drag us into any kind of conflict. This applies to all parties, and not only those involved in the Ukrainian conflict. This point is a fundamental principle of our activity. If we lose our independence, we won’t be able to work properly because the people who need help will stop trusting us.Translated by Christine Chraibi
Photo: humanitarian convoy en route to Ukraine (published in Russian media)