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Red Cross Seeks Access to Chechnyans

January 25, 2006

MOSCOW (AP) _ The International Committee of the Red Cross said Wednesday that it would urge Russia to allow it to resume visits to people detained in connection with the conflict in Chechnya.

Russia suspended such visits in September 2004.

``As a matter of priority in 2006, the ICRC will pursue discussions with the Russian authorities aimed at the resumption of visits,″ Marco Altherr, the head of the ICRC delegation in Russia, said as the group released its 2006 action plan for the country. ``The need for humanitarian assistance is still great.″

The ICRC said it has been working to establish and maintain links between detainees and their families and seeking to discuss the issue of missing persons with authorities. It also has been trying to promote respect for the civilian population in Chechnya and nearby Russian provinces, it said.

The ICRC said that it plans to keep providing essential household items to some 80,000 residents of Chechnya and refugees from the region. It also will encourage microeconomic projects to help residents of Chechnya and nearby regions start businesses and decrease their dependence on humanitarian assistance.

The ICRC said it also plans to conduct land mine education in Chechnya to help people, particularly children, avoid the dangers of mines and unexploded ordnance.

It expects to assist 15 hospitals in Chechnya and neighboring provinces and support the repair of water and sewage systems and other infrastructure, the statement said.

Its economy shattered by two wars in just over a decade, Chechnya has been plagued by endemic poverty and unemployment. While large-scale battles in Chechnya have ended, daily clashes between rebels and federal forces have continued and the region suffers from regular abductions and other crimes against civilians.

The ICRC said the budget for its operations in Russia’s northern Caucasus region remains one of its biggest worldwide.

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