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ICRC staff in Mariupol: Politicians and NGOs demand clarification from humanitarian aid organizations

Photo: Alexander Ermochenko / REUTERS

After SPIEGEL and ZDF's research into the Russian Red Cross, representatives of the traffic light coalition and the opposition are now calling for clarification and sanctions, as well as a clear reaction from the International and German Red Cross.

So far, the Russian Red Cross and its chairman have only been sanctioned by the Ukrainian government, but have been allowed to remain a member of the International Federation of Red Cross and Crescent Societies (IFRC).

On Tuesday, SPIEGEL, together with ZDF-Frontal and an international consortium of journalists, revealed how Russian President Vladimir Putin wants to oust the International Committee of the Red Cross from the occupied territories in Ukraine.

According to the plans, it will be “replaced” by the Russian branch.

Several leading members of the Russian Red Cross also openly support Russia's war of aggression against Ukraine.

The chairman of the supposedly neutral organization is apparently involved in groups that collect money and materials for soldiers at the front and spread Russian propaganda.

Margarete Bause, deputy chairwoman of Transparency International Germany, now expects a clear reaction from the German Red Cross (DRK): "The President of the DRK, Gerda Hasselfeldt, should take action and demand clarification," Bause told SPIEGEL, "until there is one According to the investigation report, the membership of the Russian Red Cross must be put on hold."

The Governing Board of the IFRC would be responsible for such a suspension.

The head of the Russian Red Cross, Pavel Sawtschuk, has been sitting there since June 2022.

100,000 euros for the RRK

Even after the start of the war, the German Red Cross supported the Russian sister company with around 100,000 euros.

A “Memorandum of Cooperation” was also signed as part of this.

This is “nothing special,” says the DRK.

All that was agreed there was that “both sides adhere to the principles of the Red Cross Movement.

It also records which projects are being undertaken together and how much money is being spent on them. However, the DRK did not want to show the document when SPIEGEL asked repeatedly.

The DRK said on Tuesday that the IFRK was responsible for the investigation and that it was in contact with the organization about this.

The DRK left questions about possible consequences unanswered.

The German Foreign Office also apparently indirectly finances the Russian Red Cross.

The ministry transferred around 270 million euros to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in 2023 alone, which in turn financially supports the Russian Red Cross.

"When making donations to humanitarian organizations, the Foreign Office always carefully checks compliance with the intended purpose of the budget title, the achievement of the project goals and the proper use of the funds and will also do this for future donations," explained a spokesman for the Foreign Office.

Call for sanctions

CDU politician Roderich Kiesewetter is now demanding that Germany also add the RRK to its sanctions list.

"Russia's hybrid strategy is aimed specifically at undermining and subverting international organizations and regulations in order to discredit and weaken them," Kiesewetter told SPIEGEL.

Something similar has already been seen at the OSCE and UN structures.

The CDU man also calls on the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to "immediately stop all financial support for the Russian Red Cross."

Traffic light politicians are also demanding an immediate response from the international aid organization.

“I expect the International Red Cross to have to clarify such an accusation,” says FDP politician Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann.

The Belarusian Red Cross had already played a frightening role in the abduction of Ukrainian children, the defense politician told SPIEGEL.

At the end of 2023, the Belarusian organization was therefore excluded from the IFRC, the Red Cross umbrella organization of national societies - unlike the Russian Red Cross.

The IFRC announced on Tuesday that it had opened an investigation.

"We are contacting the Russian Red Cross about this matter," it said in response to a query from SPIEGEL.

Trust jeopardized

Green MP Robin Wagener is calling for a “far-reaching investigation” by the ICRC and IFRC.

It is known that Putin disregards important international organizations and the principles of international humanitarian law.

"If the research is confirmed, the Red Cross movement is called upon to at least suspend its cooperation with the Russian association, as it did with the Belarusian Red Cross, in order to protect its own integrity, Wagener told SPIEGEL."

Wagener was a member of the executive committee of the German Red Cross (DRK) from 2009 to 2013.

Other national Red Cross organizations also commented on the so-called “Kremlin Leaks” revelations.

“We are aware that the research may affect trust in the entire movement and thus the ability to help people in need,” said the Swedish Red Cross.

All members of the movement are expected to adhere to the statutes and basic principles.

"In cases where our basic principles are not adhered to, we have clear procedures to deal with them," says a spokesman.