Update on allegations against the Russian Red Cross   

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Photo: IFRC

Since the escalation of the international armed conflict between Russia and Ukraine in February 2022, there have been sporadic allegations against the Russian Red Cross (RRC). Most recently, these allegations have increased in scope and sequence. Throughout the conflict, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Cross Societies (IFRC) has worked with the RRC to identify risks and solutions to evolving challenges. The RRC is a member of the IFRC Governing Board.  

For more than 100 years, the IFRC humanitarian mission has focused on alleviating human suffering in all circumstances. In accordance with International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement (Movement) policies and principles, IFRC with its member National Societies deliver vital humanitarian assistance in times of crisis, complex emergencies and during the most challenging of circumstances. Our Fundamental Principles – including neutrality, independence and impartiality – allow us to help people around the world and in communities that many others are unable to reach.  

Review of Allegations and Decision of the Governing Board 

Allegations against the Russian Red Cross have understandably raised concerns among the people we serve and within our network. In light of recent articles, the IFRC President and Secretary General approached the RRC for clarification. At the same time, the IFRC conducted a review about the accuracy of these allegations.  

Based on the findings of this review, the IFRC President, the Governing Board and the Secretary General, in consultation with the Chair of the Compliance and Mediation Committee (CMC), decided to establish a Governing Board Oversight Group to assess, identify, monitor, and recommend corrective actions to the RRC.  This decision was approved at a session of the IFRC Governing Board on April 25. The RRC did not participate in the discussion of this matter.   

As the RRC cooperated throughout the review and demonstrated their willingness to address identified challenges and alleged breaches of the IFRC integrity policy, the Governing Board has decided that at this time, the Oversight Group is the most appropriate mechanism. The Governing Board Oversight Group will consist of three Governing Board members and a member of the IFRC Audit and Risk Commission. The Governing Board Oversight Group will be chaired by Mr. Manuel Bessler, IFRC Vice President ex-officio.  

Scope of Work 

Based on the review, the Governing Board has directed the newly established Oversight Group to assess the adequacy of:  

  • the Russian Red Cross policies and practices on partnerships and engagement with national and international partners, including assessing that formal due diligence processes are in place.   
  • the safeguarding and child protection policies of the Russian Red Cross and their implementation.   
  • the Red Cross Law in the Russian Federation and its compliance with the Movement standards.   

The IFRC recommends that the RRC offers training of all staff and volunteers to local branches on Fundamental Principles, International Humanitarian Law, and its code of conduct and appropriate standards.  The Oversight Group will provide the Governing Board with any other observations that would indicate areas of potential improvement. 

Findings of the review and next steps 

So far, the IFRC review process found that the Russian Red Cross does not have presence in Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson, and Zaporizhzhia. This will be confirmed and monitored by the Oversight Group.  

The RRC partnership with Artek requires a serious review to ensure that the rights and the safety of children are put at the forefront of every decision and activity. This will be further addressed by the Oversight Group.  

The review showed that some individuals from RRC local branches made political statements not aligned with the Fundamental Principles. As a result, the RRC has already brought cases to their Ethics Commission and the proceedings will be monitored by the Oversight Group.  

The RRC, like most National Societies, works with their public authorities in their auxiliary role. In the case of RRC, the main engagement is in the field of health, including mental health and first aid training.  

Following the Belarus Red Cross's (BRC) suspension from the IFRC, the RRC has not engaged in new partnerships with BRC. Lastly, the RRC President, Mr. Pavel Savchuk, confirmed his affiliation with ONF from 2019 to March 2022 when he was part of a working group focused on humanitarian approaches to health care and, in 2020, the response to COVID-19. This was before the RRC was elected as a Governing Board member of the IFRC. The review process determined he is no longer a member of ONF. 

The Governing Board Oversight Group is expected to deliver its findings over the next four months with regular updates to the Governing Board.  

The work of the Red Cross and Red Crescent is centered around preventing and alleviating human suffering. The IFRC Governing Board Oversight Group will work with the RRC to enhance the speed, scale, quality and relevance of humanitarian action at all levels and to preserve respect for humanitarian principles in a constantly changing humanitarian and political context.