The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has categorically rejected Ukrainian claims it has opened an office in the Russian city of Rostov-on-Don and is facilitating the deportation of Ukrainian citizens to Russia.
The ICRC, which generally keeps a low public profile, issued the statement following what it called “false information circulating online” that it was helping Russia move tens of thousands of people out of the country.
“We never help organize or carry out forced evacuations. This is true in Ukraine. This is true for everywhere we work around the world. We would not support any operation that goes against people’s will,” the Red Cross tweeted.
On Friday, Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk accused ICRC head Peter Maurer of taking a “very questionable decision” to open an office in Rostov – which lies about 37 miles (60 kilometers) from the border with Ukraine. Such an office “legitimized” Russia’s deportations, she suggested.
In its statement, the Red Cross said it had no office in Rostov, but was, “scaling up our regional set up to be able respond to needs where we see them. Our priority is to ensure a steady supply of lifesaving aid reaches people, wherever they are.”
On Saturday, Vereshchuk accused Russia of creating an “alternative humanitarian reality” by forcibly deporting 40,000 people from occupied parts of Ukraine. Last week, a senior Russian official said more than 62,000 people had been evacuated from Mariupol to protect them from what he said were the "bandits" fighting to keep the besieged city in Ukrainian hands.
Ukrainian regional officials have also accused Russian forces of stopping and holding up bus convoys trying to evacuate civilians to Ukrainian-occupied territory – calling it a pressure campaign to force some people to Russia.