Poul Nielson pays visit to Russia and North Caucasus to assess the humanitarian situation in the region

The European Commissioner for Development Cooperation and Humanitarian Aid, Mr Poul Nielson, visited the Russian Federation from 5-8 February. He had several meetings with the federal and regional authorities and visited camps and settlements of 'Internally Displaced People' (IDP). The main purpose of the visit was to assess the humanitarian situation of those IDP fleeing the conflict in Chechnya to neighbouring Ingushetia, for whom ECHO (the European Commission Humanitarian Office) has made available funding of euro 7.4 million which will be channelled via the UNHCR, the International Committee of the Red Cross, and several non-governmental organisations. Mr Nielson praised the role being played by the humanitarian agencies in this crisis in helping to alleviate the plight of the IDP. Mr Nielson called on the Russian and Ingush authorities to provide the necessary guarantees, particularly concerning security, allowing the humanitarian agencies to carry out their role according to their normal standards and working conditions. In this context, Mr Nielson stressed the importance of ensuring free access for humanitarian workers to civilians in need in the whole region. Mr Nielson expressed concern over the question of reports of forced repatriation of IDP to Chechnya by the authorities.