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Red Cross denies Kyiv's accusation of working 'in concert' with Moscow
A senior Kyiv official on Wednesday accused the International Committee of the Red Cross of working "in concert" with Russia in Ukraine, a charge the organisation denied.
Ombudswoman Lyudmyla Denisova decried ICRC's announcement last month that it was planning to open a branch in Russia's southern Rostov region to help Ukrainian refugees, who, Kyiv says, have been forcibly deported to Russia.
"The International Red Cross is not fulfilling its mandate, I am certain of that," Denisova said on Ukrainian television Wednesday after meeting with the head of the ICRC's Ukrainian branch.
Citing data from the United Nations, Denisova said that some 550,000 Ukrainians, including 121,000 children, have been taken to Russia during the course of the war, but Kyiv has no information on who these people are and where they are being kept.
"Where are they? In filtration camps? In temporary facilities?" Denisova asked.
The official said she had asked both her Russian counterpart Tatyana Moskalkova and the ICRC for help in getting information on these refugees so that Ukraine could facilitate their return home, but had received "zero answer from her or from the Red Cross".
Asked by the TV anchor whether Denisova suspected that the Red Cross was working "in concert" with Russia, Denisova replied: "Yes, I suspect they are."
The ICRC strongly rejected Kyiv's accusations.
"The ICRC does not ever help organize or carry out forced evacuations. We would not support any operation that would go against people's will and international law," the organisation said in a statement to AFP.
It added: "Building and maintaining a dialogue with parties to a conflict is essential to get access to all people affected and obtain necessary security guarantees for our teams to deliver life-saving aid."
The Red Cross said it has been exploring the possibility to open an office in southern Russia.
"Our sole objective is to alleviate the suffering of the people affected by the armed conflict. And the suffering right now is simply immense."