Since early April, Crimean branches of the Red Cross Society (RCS) of Ukraine have been moving under its Russian counterpart’s aegis one by one. The official website of the society’s Crimean region says that the Russian RCS’s Kerch branch was established at a general meeting held on April 1, followed by Yevpatoria on April 2 and Dzhankoi on April 11. Branches that had been subordinated to the Ukrainian national leadership have been liquidated and replaced with Russian-aligned successors. The change concerned more than just the name, as all property belonging to the Crimean RCS has been transferred, too, in violation of a number of international documents and treaties that define the principles of the movement worldwide. The main of them is the society’s political and ideological neutrality.
Our RCS has declared that Ukraine does not recognize the reorganized branches in Crimea, and considers their creation an unlawful seizure of property that violates the established links between the two organizations. For the first time in 150 years of the movement’s existence, one state has taken control of its branches in another. The Ukrainian office is now considering its response and calling the International RCS to provide assistance.
However, this issue is new and unexpected for international experts, too. They say that the behavior of the Russian society in Crimea is outside the movement’s international charter.
“There is an official document, a resolution with the Russian society’s seal attached, that says that all assets and branches of the Ukrainian society in Crimea have been transferred to Russian ownership. The assets have been transferred, but the area remains legally Ukrainian, we have to keep paying salaries, it is our assets and people, our field of action. We have such a predicament on our hands concerning the most humane, most honest and most impartial organization in the world,” head of the Ukrainian RCS’s information department Viktor Shcherbatiuk noted.
First of all, this uncertainty will affect the people who received help or treatment via the Ukrainian RCS’s programs. These projects are now on hold in Crimea. “Before the conflict started, we implemented in Crimea programs to combat TB, HIV/AIDS, provide first aid training for the public, and a number of other projects funded by international and Ukrainian agencies,” head of the Ukrainian RCS’s international department Valerii Serhovsky commented. “We may not do that anymore, as it involves financial dealings, and we are not allowed to fund Russia, so we have had to stop these programs. We developed the entire infrastructure on the peninsula almost from scratch. The society devoted special attention to Crimea because we had to improve the formerly deported peoples’ living conditions in the peninsula, we introduced special programs, opened medico-social centers, which took a lot of money, too. We put a great effort into bringing the Crimean RCS up to international standards.”
Mechanisms for conflict settlement do exist, the experts argue, but they can work only under the conditions of dialog with the Russian side. Serhovsky added that Ukraine could not resist, because assistance to our citizens was at stake. However, it is still unable to apply any definite measures. The expert said that Russia had even signed a cooperation agreement with Ukraine, amended in 2012. The agreement deals with joint programs in border regions of Russia and Ukraine. The experts are equally in dark on whether this cooperation will continue.