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ICRC Fears Breakdown of Ukraine Cease-fire

  • Lisa Schlein

Fighters of the Azov Battalion prepare to fire an anti-tank weapon in the town of Shyrokyne, eastern Ukraine, March 23, 2015.

Fighters of the Azov Battalion prepare to fire an anti-tank weapon in the town of Shyrokyne, eastern Ukraine, March 23, 2015.

The International Committee of the Red Cross says it fears the shaky Ukraine cease-fire deal agreed to in February will breakdown. The ICRC is expressing concern about the recent intensified fighting between Ukrainian and Russian-backed rebels.

The International Committee of the Red Cross says a breakdown of the cease-fire would seriously affect its humanitarian operations in eastern Ukraine. Since the cease-fire began in February, it says aid workers have been able to access frontline locations that had been out of reach since July, including towns close to Donetsk.

This, it says, has allowed the agency to distribute critical aid to many people who had been sheltering from the shelling in cold, cramped basements. But, the head of the Red Cross Office in Mariupol, Tasha Rumley, says certain places remain hard to access despite the cease-fire.

One of these is the village of Shyrokyne where, she says, the fighting has never stopped, though it has been kept at a low level. On a poor telephone line from Mariupol, she tells VOA people there are dismayed and outraged at the recent escalation of fighting between the government and Russian-backed rebels.

“Of course, nobody knows exactly what will happen. So, we also have to get ready if there is a complete resumption of hostilities," she said. "We have to be ready for the new needs, which will come up ... The situation is tense in the region of Mariupol, so everybody is concerned because nobody wants to have this active, open fighting.”

In the meantime, the ICRC is appealing for an extra $34 million to tackle the severe humanitarian situation. The United Nations reports at least 6,000 people have been killed and around two million people, half of the region’s population, have fled their homes and are displaced.

The Red Cross has budgeted $84.5 million for Ukraine, making this one of its top five global operations. The agency says money from a $34 million flash appeal will be spent on increasing aid to those left homeless by the conflict. It will provide essential health services and help to identify the dead. It also will be used to help people with the dangers of unexploded ordnance.

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