The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) welcomes the recent simultaneous release and transfer of detained persons between Ukraine and the self-proclaimed republics of Donetsk and Luhansk, and notes improved conditions for its access to detainees, Roger Baptiste Ruffy, the deputy head of the ICRC delegation in Ukraine, told Sputnik in an interview on Friday
MOSCOW (Pakistan Point News / Sputnik - 03rd January, 2020) The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) welcomes the recent simultaneous release and transfer of detained persons between Ukraine and the self-proclaimed republics of Donetsk and Luhansk, and notes improved conditions for its access to detainees, Roger Baptiste Ruffy, the deputy head of the ICRC delegation in Ukraine, told Sputnik in an interview on Friday.
The first exchange of detainees between the sides of the conflict in Ukraine's eastern Donbas region in two years took place last Sunday. Kiev returned 124 people to the Donbas republics, while 76 people returned to the territories controlled by the Ukrainian authorities.
"The ICRC welcomes any steps that help to improve the situation in Donbas, including the simultaneous release and transfer of people whose detention was related with the conflict ... The ICRC is pleased to note that the conditions for ICRC's access to detainees who were released on December 29th has improved, generally speaking, since previous simultaneous release operations in Donbas," Ruffy said.
The official outlined the importance of giving the ICRC access to checking detainees' will and ability to be released and transferred in line with international law and its mandate.
Ruffy noted that that mandate included visiting detainees. However, according to the official, the mission has been unable to meet with detainees held in the territories beyond the control of the Ukrainian government since 2017. The ICRC has been engaged in negotiations with local authorities on the possibility of resuming such detention visits, Ruffy added.
"As soon as an agreement is reached for the ICRC to resume visits according to its internationally-recognized modalities to places of detention in the non-Ukrainian government-controlled area, the ICRC will deploy its specialized delegates, to carry out those visits," Ruffy pointed out.
Such visits allow the ICRC to plan its actions to ensure contacts between detainees and their families and improve detention conditions, including the provision of health services and conducting advanced training for medical personnel working at detention sites, according to the official.
"According to other groups of population that need ICRC assistance, our support will stay on the same level as in 2019. As for now, we have about 600 ICRC employees in Ukraine's delegation. It is very hard to predict how this number will change in 2020. It depends on situation. Today, there is no need to talk about increasing of the ICRC staff to visit people in places of detention," Ruffy estimated.
Moscow has welcomed the simultaneous release of detainees as an important humanitarian step. Moreover, the operation was discussed in a phone call between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Ukrainian counterpart, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, on Tuesday. The sides agreed to immediately initiate efforts to compile lists for the release of Ukrainians detained in Crimea and Russia and Russian nationals detained in Ukraine.