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Rumors About the Red Cross In Ukraine: What You Should Know

04/03/2022 9:02 PM | Anonymous

Rumors About the Red Cross In Ukraine: What You Should Know

Recently posted by the American Red Cross.

As the conflict in Ukraine continues, each day brings more death, destruction and suffering to people across eastern Europe. For more than a month, the Red Cross has worked tirelessly to support the more than 10 million people displaced during this conflict and has reached more than 750,000 people with life-saving aid, both within Ukraine and in neighboring countries.

Recently there has been a great deal of misinformation circulating online about the role of our Red Cross partners regarding our work in and around Ukraine. Specifically, false narratives about the International Committee of the Red Cross’s (ICRC) neutrality and role on the ground have the potential to cause real harm to all of our teams, partners and the many people who need urgent help. As needs increase by the hour, the ability for Red Cross teams to deliver much-needed humanitarian assistance is being jeopardized by the surge of misinformation about the role the organization plays to alleviate suffering in armed conflict.

These rumors also impact the American Red Cross as many are unclear about the distinctions among ICRC, IFRC and national societies — like ours.

One claim that has no basis in truth is a false allegation regarding the role of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in forced evacuations. The ICRC has not been involved with any forced evacuation or forced transfer of civilians into Russia from Mariupol or any other Ukrainian city. To be absolutely clear, the Red Cross would never support any operation that would go against people's will.

There is another false allegation about the role of ICRC in Russia. To be clear: the ICRC does not want to open an office in southern Russia to "filter" Ukrainians, as many reports are alleging. ICRC is not opening a refugee camp or any other type of camp.

Here are the claims circulating, as well as the facts to help clarify the truth:

Claim: “The Red Cross is abandoning people who need help in Mariupol, Ukraine.”

Fact:

The human suffering throughout Ukraine, including in Mariupol, is immense. This is an extreme situation where people are facing impossible choices to feed and protect their families, in addition to surviving under an increased attack from Russian forces. An agreement between the parties is urgently needed in order to deliver aid and to ensure the safe passage out for those wishing to leave.

Currently, hundreds of thousands of people need help in Mariupol, which means a ceasefire needs to hold not just for a few hours, but potentially for days. Specific agreements on location, timing, routes and other details need to be agreed upon to ensure the safety of civilians. The ICRC is not and cannot in any way be the guarantor of a ceasefire agreement between the parties or of its implementation; the ICRC is facilitating the dialogue between the parties on the safe passage of civilians.

The ICRC has a team in Dnipro (320 km from Mariupol) and is sending aid to both Dnipro and Zaporizhia (220 km from Mariupol). People in Mariupol need and deserve the same, and ICRC stands ready to help if the parties can come to an agreement to do it safely.

Claim: “The Red Cross is siding with Russia in this conflict and giving up its neutrality.”

Fact:

Neutrality is at the core of our fundamental principles, and vital to the work we do every day. Because the Red Cross Movement is neutral, we have access to deliver aid to the most vulnerable people regardless of where they are located. Neutrality also helps the Red Cross do work like protect detainees

This crisis is bigger than the ICRC and the wider Red Cross humanitarian network. Neutrality and impartiality are not abstract concepts or lofty principles that have no relation to people's real-life experiences. It is a means to an end, a way of working that allows humanitarian workers to reach, help and in many cases save the lives of civilians, no matter what side of the frontline they are on.

Claim: “The Red Cross should not be meeting with Russian officials.”

Fact:

ICRC is a neutral organization whose neutrality is vital in aiding all people impacted by conflict. Maintaining neutrality ensures the organization can advocate respect for international humanitarian law, to protect civilian life and to ensure aid is able to reach people most in need. ICRC has been in dialogue with officials in both Ukraine and Russia to advocate for humanitarian access and protection. Peter Maurer, president of the ICRC, visited Moscow on March 23rd and 24th to continue humanitarian discussions with Russian authorities stressing the importance of safe passages for civilians – including the delivery of humanitarian supplies, protection of civilians and civilian infrastructure and the dignified treatment of prisoners of war. ICRC officials previously met with Ukrainian authorities.

Meetings like this are lifesaving. The role of the Red Cross Movement is to ensure safe passages from conflict zones for all, including Red Cross staff and volunteers, journalists and medical and aid workers.

Claim: “The Red Cross is deporting people from Mariupol to Russia.”

Fact:

The ICRC does not organize or carry out forced evacuations; their role is to solidify agreements to help people safely flee the violence, and they are working daily throughout affected regions to do so. These understandings are agreed to by all parties to ensure the route is safe, and that information is shared with those seeking safe passage so they can make their own choices. ICRC will continue to do its work to help facilitate the safe passage of civilians as they did previously in Sumy and will continue to do so in the days and weeks ahead. On a related note, there are many Russians who live in Ukraine; once this crisis began, some made the voluntary decision to move back to Russia and the ICRC has helped those who wish to go to Russia to do so – but these are voluntary choices for those involved, not deportations.

Claim: “ICRC wants to set up an office in Rostov, southern Russia, to ‘filter Ukrainians.’”

Fact:

The ICRC is discussing opening an office Rostov in southern Russia (where there currently is no office), in order to facilitate the delivery of relief assistance and to support mobile relief teams. ICRC's primary role includes the delivery of emergency services to people in need, wherever they are, which is why new offices need to be established close to areas where humanitarian aid is needed. ICRC already has teams in Belarus, Hungary, Moldova, Poland, and Romania.

For additional discussions on this topic, see this article from International Business Times.



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