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“I must admit that at the end of last year the ICRC budget had no provisions for spending on Ukraine as we could not foresee a conflict there,” Maurer said. “We planned only small operations aimed at development of the Ukrainian Red Cross.”
However, amid the spiralling conflict, “We have come to a conclusion that combat actions brought about a humanitarian crisis in Donbass, in particular, and in Ukraine, on the whole, as everywhere humanitarian demands were on the rise due to a flow of refugees fleeing armed clashes,” he said.
“At the same time, these demands have emerged in neighbouring Russia as a large flow of people rushed into your country, too,” Maurer said. “So the ICRC has stepped up its efforts on the ground - in Crimea, in Donbass and other regions of the two countries - and has begun to organize its work in line with these demands.’First, troubles and disruptions in the work of communications and services were followed by shortages. Then, civilians started to flee the areas of the combat operations, he said.
“So the ICRC launched a campaign for rendering medical assistance, for providing housing, water supplies and repairs in several cities like Lugansk and Donetsk,” he said.
Maurer said that the organization’s staff members are working in Kiev, Donbass, Mariupol, Odessa and other Ukrainian regions so that “to organize work more efficiently.”
“Perhaps, we will have to expand our activity as the number of refugees is huge,” Maurer said. “We also support the Russian Red Cross to help refugees in Russia.”
“It is one of the most difficult operations for the ICRC to organize work as the public opinion is extremely polarised and the countries are divided in their views and assessments,” he said. “This is a conflict in which Russians, Ukrainians and Russian-speaking Ukrainians have quite opposite feelings and estimates about what we should do and what we should not do, about who we should help and who we should not help. In this context the crucial task is to maintain the principles of neutrality and impartiality.