Red Cross denies role in forced evacuations of Ukrainians to Russia

GENEVA — The International Committee of the Red Cross has denied accusations that it helped organize or carry out forced evacuations of Ukrainians to Russia.

“The ICRC does not ever help organize or carry out forced evacuations. This applies everywhere we work. We would not support any operation that would go against people’s will and our principles,” the Geneva-based humanitarian organization says in a statement.

The ICRC statement, headlined “Addressing misinformation about ICRC’s activities,” doesn’t specify what has given rise to the strong denial, saying only “over the past days, false information about the ICRC has been circulated that we must address.”

However, the statement appears to be a response to accusations by Roman Rukomeda, a Ukrainian political analyst who spoke to the Euractiv online media yesterday.

In those comments, Rukomeda said “there is evidence of strange behavior by the International Committee of the Red Cross and its head, who announced the decision to open an office in Russian Rostov to assist Russian terrorists in the illegal deportation of Ukrainian citizens.”

The ICRC warns that such “false information” could have a major impact on people affected by the conflict in Ukraine.

“This misinformation is also putting at risk Red Cross staff and volunteers on the ground and could jeopardize our access to people in need of urgent aid,” the statement adds.

The ICRC did say that it had been involved in two evacuation operations for Ukrainian people, on March 15 and March 18 when they “facilitated the voluntary safe passage of civilians” out of the northeastern city of Sumy.

“On both occasions people willingly took buses leading them to another Ukrainian city, Lubny,” further from the Russian border, the ICRC says.

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