- ICRC wants pact for evacuations from besieged Mariupol
- Urges both sides to allow POW visits, return of dead bodies
The International Committee of the Red Cross urged Ukraine and Russia on Tuesday to agree on safe evacuation of civilians from the besieged Ukrainian city of Mariupol and other frontline areas, where vitals are running out, and on delivery of aid.
Asked about Ukrainian accusations of forced deportation of Mariupol residents to Russia, ICRC director-general Robert Mardini told Reuters his agency had no direct information and would not participate in such as it violated the rules of war.
"People are caught and trapped in the line of fire. And it is happening unfortunately in many places today in Ukraine, not only in Mariupol," Mardini said at ICRC headquarters in Geneva five weeks after Russia launched its invasion.
"What we expect and what is needed for civilians is that there is a clear and explicit agreement by the two sides on safe evacuations of civilians."
With Russia causing global shock for shelling residential areas, the ICRC issued a statement on Tuesday reminding the warring sides of international obligations to protect civilians and target only military objectives.
Russia calls its mission a "special operation" to disarm and "denazify" Ukraine.
Prisoners of war
Mardini said that there was an "outrageous" disinformation campaign against the ICRC on social media and politicization of humanitarian work that was raising risks for aid workers.
The Ukrainian Red Cross had said its branch in Kropyvnytskyi was attacked, he added. An ICRC spokesperson later said that an angry person had confronted Red Cross workers and physically attacked that office, causing some damage but no injuries.
The ICRC was in talks to open an operational base in Rostov-on-Don in Russia as part of its regional scale up, but it should not be misconstrued as being linked to deportations, Mardini said.
Mardini also urged Ukraine and Russia to let the ICRC visit prisoners of war, as it does worldwide in line with the Geneva Conventions, and return remains of the dead.
"It's always sensitive but I think there is also a humanitarian imperative for detainees, for families, to have news of their loved ones," he said.