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Ombudsman: Red Cross 'playing along with Russian aggression'

by Rachel Amran April 28, 2024 1:30 AM 3 min read
Russian Red Cross staff members. (RRC/website)
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The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is "playing along with Russian aggression," Ukraine's Chief Ombudsman Dmytro Lubinets said on April 27.

Earlier this year, a media investigation found that Russia's national branch, the Russian Red Cross (RRC), violated its core principles of neutrality and independence by expanding operations into occupied territories of Ukraine while also using Russian government funds to mold it into a propaganda tool.

Only the International Committee of the Red Cross is allowed to operate in war zones. National branches of the Red Cross can work in other countries only with the permission of the hosting state, and Ukraine has not extended such permission to the RRC.

Lubinets said that the ICRC claims that the RRC does not have a presence in the occupied Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson, and Zaporizhzhia regions, but "not a single word has been said that the Red Cross operates on the territory of Crimea."

The Russian branch also "stole the property of the national Red Cross Society of Ukraine in Crimea," Lubinets added.

He also criticized alleged associations between the RRC and the Russian government-owned "summer camp" Artek. Artek has received Ukrainian children placed in "patriotic" re-education programs and prevented from returning to their families, while the camp's director has organized Russian military and patriotic camps for Ukrainian children in Crimea.

Last month, Lubinets called on the ICRC to launch an investigation into the activities of the RRC for violating principles of neutrality.

"Previously, the media reported that the Russian Red Cross cooperated with the Artek camp in occupied Crimea. It was also said that the director of this camp was sanctioned for his involvement in the deportation of Ukrainian children. At the same time, the federation's conclusions currently state only that 'partnership with the Artek camp requires a serious review.' These words are pitiful because when there are facts, action is needed, not consideration of the situation from different sides," Lubinets said.

Lubinets stated that the ICRC's response seems like an attempt to save the reputation of the RRC while also exposing the powerlessness and obsolescence of the system.

According to the Ukrainian Ombudsman, the ICRC promised to "introduce courses on international humanitarian law" to the staff of the RRC to "better hide their [RRC's] crimes."

"At the same time, it is said that in the future, the group of the federation, which was created to check the actions of the RRC, will provide its conclusions within the next four months. I consider such actions on the part of the ICRC to be a direct abetment of the aggression of the Russian Federation," he added.

Previous investigations into the RRC revealed that supposed RRC employees insulted and abused Ukrainian prisoners of war. Additionally, under the leadership of Pavel Savchuk, a Kremlin loyalist who held a position in the pro-Vladimir Putin All-Russia People's Front (ONF) political group, the RRC has reportedly cooperated with sanctioned organizations involved in raising funds for the Russian military.

The RRC has also handed out awards for "humanitarian contributions" to companies creating weapons used against Ukraine. For example, the Avangard factory, which produces S-300 and S-400 missiles, was reportedly awarded by the RRC for increasing blood donations from its workers.

The RRC's staff have made public statements in support of Russia's war, promoting Russian propaganda narratives.

Lubinets said that the new ICRC chief, Kate Forbes, is ready to hold a meeting with him, during which he plans to raise these issues.

Ombudsman asks UN, Red Cross to investigate execution of Ukrainian POWs in Avdiivka
Ukraine’s Ombudsman Dmytro Lubinets said on Feb. 20 he appealed to the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to investigate the killings of Ukrainian prisoners of war at the Zenit strongpoint in Avdiivka.
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