Red Cross lays down conditions for bringing aid to Ukraine

Humanitarian body says it needs agreement from all sides and security guarantees

Ukrainian soldiers of the Donbass battalion during an anti-terrorist operation against militants in Maryinka, near Donetsk, yesterday. Photograph: EPA/Roman Pilipey

Ukrainian soldiers of the Donbass battalion during an anti-terrorist operation against militants in Maryinka, near Donetsk, yesterday. Photograph: EPA/Roman Pilipey

Tue, Aug 12, 2014, 02:14

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said it held talks yesterday with Ukrainian and Russian authorities on delivering Russia’s proposed aid to eastern Ukraine, but laid down strict guidelines to uphold its neutral role.

Thousands of people are believed to lack access to water, electricity and medical aid, the independent aid agency said.

Russian president Vladimir Putin said earlier yesterday Russia was sending an aid convoy to eastern Ukraine despite western warnings not to use humanitarian help as a pretext for an invasion.

The ICRC said it had submitted a document to both sides and needed agreement from all parties as well as security guarantees to carry out the operation, as it does not use armed escorts.

Agreement required

“Today the ICRC met with the Ukrainian and the Russian authorities and shared a document which specifies the manner in which such an operation could take place,” it said.

This required agreement by all sides that the ICRC would be allowed to deliver the aid with respect for its fundamental working principles of neutrality, impartiality and independence.

“The document also stipulates . . . prior to the beginning of the operation, the ICRC should receive without undue delay from the authorities of the Russian Federation, all necessary details concerning the aid, including the volume and type of items, and requirements for transport and storage.”

The arrival of an aid mission would ease tensions after months of fighting between government forces and pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine. The conflict has left hundreds dead and created the deepest rift between Russia and the US and its allies since the end of the Cold War.

Strongholds encircled

Ukraine’s military said yesterday it is near the end of its operation to encircle the remaining separatist strongholds in the cities of Donetsk and Luhansk and called on civilians to leave as government troops close in. The army is targeting a decisive victory after successes in recent weeks.

The fighting is causing havoc in the residential areas where it’s now concentrated.

Luhansk, where about half of the 500,000 population remains, is completely isolated, with electricity cut off in the centre and no phone connections, food, medication or fuel, the city council said. Encirclement of the rebels would shut routes to the Russian border and sever their supply lines.

US president Barack Obama backed the plan for an aid mission in a phone call, Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko said on his website.

Mr Putin discussed the planned aid convoy with European Commission president José Barroso in a phone call today. “President Putin told President Barroso that the Russian side would co-operate with international humanitarian organizations to deliver the aid,” Michael Jennings, a spokesman for the commission, said. – (Agencies)