Russian Federation / Northern Caucasus Fact Sheet
Gudermes in December 1995; Pervomaiskaya in early 1996; Novogrozny, Sernovodsk, Grozny, Samashki and just recently Goyskoye and Vedeno: in all these places ICRC delegates have been struggling to assist the civilian population which has once more been drawn into a nightmare situation. The ICRC was able to help people who managed to flee the beleaguered villages, but, as no humanitarian truce was granted, it could do nothing for the population trapped there.
Appalling security conditions, often arising from acts of pure banditry, have made the work of the ICRC and that of the other humanitarian agencies difficult and even dangerous. Following serious security incidents involving ICRC personnel, the institution has decided temporarily to scale down its programmes in Chechnya as a whole in order to concentrate on the most urgent needs in Grozny and the southern part of the region, providing assistance to medical facilities treating the war-wounded, carrying out water supply and sanitation work, and running the community kitchen programme in Grozny and Gudermes. Meanwhile ICRC assistance programmes have been adapted to meet the needs of newly displaced people arriving in the neighbouring republics of Ingushetia and Daghestan.
PROTECTION OF CIVILIANS, VISITS TO DETAINEES, TRACING ACTIVITIES
Since the crisis began, the ICRC has informed the parties on a number of occasions of its disquiet over violations of international humanitarian law committed during the conflict. It has repeatedly reminded the parties to respect the rules of war, in particular to ensure that civilians and the wounded are spared during the fighting.
The ICRC is also concerned about the situation of detainees, both civilian and military, and has requested access to all persons being held in connection with the conflict. Although in principle agreements have been reached to allow delegates to visit detainees held by either side, in practice access has remained limited. Since the outbreak of the conflict, a total of some 800 detainees held by both sides have been visited in Chechnya and also in other parts of the Russian Federation. However, since the beginning of 1996 the ICRC has not been able to carry out visits to persons detained by the Russian federal authorities. The ICRC is particularly concerned about the fate of those arrested following the fighting in Sernovodsk and Samashki. So far, authorizations granted at high level in Moscow have not yielded any results in the field.
Distributions of winter relief supplies in Grozny and the southern regions had to be interrupted at the beginning of 1996 following a drastic worsening of security conditions. Nevertheless, seven community kitchens (five in Grozny and two in Gudermes) remained in operation, serving one hot meal a day to about 3,000 people among the most vulnerable. At the same time emergency assistance programmes had to be set up in the neighbouring republics of Ingushetia and Daghestan, where the number of displaced persons increased sharply owing to renewed fighting in Chechnya. In Ingushetia some 17,000 people who had succeeded in leaving Sernovodsk and Samashki were given food and other items, while 2,500 people who remained in Sernovodsk also received assistance. In Daghestan the ICRC distributed aid to almost 7,000 newly displaced persons. In January 1996, 1,000 people who had managed to flee the hostage crisis in Pervomaiskaya (Daghestan) and take refuge in surrounding villages received food, blankets, candles and kitchen sets.
The previously planned winter programme for Ingushetia was completed by the end of March 1996. Under the programme about 47,000 displaced people received food parcels and blankets. Starting next May this programme will be readjusted to reach the most vulnerable among the displaced and the resident population, providing them with food, hygiene items, clothing and blankets. It will be carried out in close cooperation with the local committee of the Russian Red Cross.
Likewise in Daghestan the ICRC completed a supplementary food parcel distribution in early 1996 for nearly 40,000 displaced people, while about 20,000 displaced children received winter clothing. In May the ICRC will start distributing basic school materials for about 40,000 pupils among the displaced and local communities in the Khasavyurt area.
Given the fact that the displaced people in this context move from Chechnya to the neighbouring republics and back again according to the prevailing security conditions, very careful estimates have to be made of their numbers. According to the ICRC, there are currently around 50,000 Chechen displaced persons in Ingushetia, and 45,000 in Daghestan.
Hospitals in and around conflict zones in Chechnya have admitted several hundred casualties over the past month, and ICRC delegates have distributed emergency supplies to nearly 30 medical facilities in Grozny and southern areas.
Recently the number of medical facilities receiving assistance in Daghestan increased from two to 16 after the arrival of displaced people from eastern Chechnya.
Several towns and villages affected by the fighting (Gudermes, Novogrozny, Sernovodsk, Samashki and Grozny) and collective centres (Khasavyurt in Daghestan) faced with a further influx of newly displaced people feature among the priorities of ICRC water and sanitation engineers, who are working to provide the population with safe water. This is especially important since cholera could make an appearance in the region during the hot summer months.
In Grozny there is still a considerable need for water distributions, and the ICRC provides 200,000 to 300,000 litres every day when security conditions permit. In Sernovodsk, where the ICRC delivers an average of 43 cubic metres of safe water a day, rehabilitation work on the local pumping station is due to start soon. In Samashki the pumping station was equipped with a new generator.
In April 1995 postal services between Chechnya and the outside world resumed and the demand for Red Cross messages declined. The Red Cross message network, which had been set up with the help of the local authorities and the regional committees of the Russian Red Cross, was no longer needed except for detainees. However, with the worsening of the situation and the displacement of thousands more people, it has been brought back into service.
PROMOTING RESPECT FOR HUMANITARIAN RULES
In a region where humanitarian law is little known, it is of the utmost importance to reach those involved in the fighting. The ICRC was recently authorized by representatives of the Russian armed forces based in Vladikavkaz (North Ossetia) and Rostov to give talks on international humanitarian law (IHL) and the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement to troops based in the northern Caucasus.
Furthermore, the ICRC has recently started to cooperate with the Russian military press on a weekly basis, reaching a large section of the military with information about the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and the basic principles of humanity it promotes.
COOPERATION WITH LOCAL COMMITTEES OF THE NATIONAL SOCIETY
The ICRC is working in close cooperation with the local branches of the Russian Red Cross in Chechnya, Ingushetia, North Ossetia, Kabardino-Balkaria and the neighbouring regions of the Russian Federation. This cooperation has proved most useful in the areas of relief distributions, tracing activities, delivery of family messages and assistance to vulnerable people.
In Ingushetia, North Ossetia and Kabardino-Balkaria, the ICRC has provided support to each of the local Red Cross committees in the form of a vehicle, typewriters, photocopiers and office supplies.
Since June 1995, the ICRC has been paying the salaries of 35 Chechen Red Cross nurses who make regular home visits to 300 patients in Grozny and has provided the necessary supplies for this programme. Similar programmes are about to start in Ingushetia, North Ossetia, Kabardino-Balkaria and Daghestan. The community kitchen programme launched on 25 December 1995 in Grozny and now extended to Gudermes is also being run in close cooperation with the local Red Cross.
GENERAL INFORMATION ON ICRC PRESENCE IN THE NORTHERN CAUCASUS
The ICRC opened a regional delegation in Moscow in 1992. Thanks to its presence in Nalchik (Kabardino-Balkaria), established in July 1993 in connection with the Ossetian-Ingush conflict and its aftermath, the ICRC was able to follow developments in Chechnya from the very start of the fighting.
The first clashes between forces loyal
to President Dudayev and various opposition factions broke out in September
1994, and the ICRC, fearing a deterioration in the situation, immediately
distributed medicines and emergency medical supplies to
From the start of the conflict relief supplies, medicines and medical materials for distribution in the region have been sent from Nalchik (Kabardino-Balkaria) to Nazran (Ingushetia), Khasavyurt (Daghestan) and Grozny (Chechnya). Following the worsening of the situation in Chechnya, ICRC has sent most of its personnel to the neighbouring republics, keeping only nine delegates in Grozny for the time being. ICRC activities in Chechnya will be pursued partly from Ingushetia and Daghestan. In July 1995 the ICRC also opened an office in Vladikavkaz, North Ossetia, for closer monitoring of the humanitarian situation resulting from the Ossetian-Ingush conflict.
On 19 January 1995, the ICRC launched an emergency appeal for 55 million Swiss francs (42.8 million US dollars) to assist victims of the conflict in Chechnya. For 1996, the ICRC has asked for over 29 million Swiss francs (approximately US$ 25 million) for its operation in the Russian federation and in particular for its action in Chechnya.
In all, 38 expatriates and 200 local
staff are working in this operation.
Grozny: 9 delegates
Nazran: 4 delegates
Khasavyurt: 7 delegates
Nalchik: 18 delegates
The expatriates include six people made available by European Red Cross Societies and the New Zealand Red Cross, which have also contributed generously to the assistance effort with donations in kind.
An aircraft chartered by the ICRC makes twice-weekly flights between Moscow and Nalchik to transport ICRC staff and supplies, particularly medical aid. Delegates in the field are using about 40 trucks and as many all-purpose vehicles to carry out their tasks.
April 1996 OP/EURAS