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Cablegate: Tfgg01: Humanitarian Situation for South Ossetians In

VZCZCXRO2226
OO RUEHLN RUEHPOD RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHMO #2440/01 2290936
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 160936Z AUG 08
FM AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 9546
INFO RUEHXD/MOSCOW POLITICAL COLLECTIVE IMMEDIATE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 MOSCOW 002440

DEPARTMENT FOR PRM/ECA AND EUR/RUS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREF PGOV PHUM PINR ICRC RS
SUBJECT: TFGG01: HUMANITARIAN SITUATION FOR SOUTH OSSETIANS IN
NORTH CAUCASUS REMAINS STABLE, IGO'S AFFIRM

1. (SBU) Summary: United Nations agencies and the International
Committee of the Red Cross operating in Russia report that
conditions for Ossetian conflict victims who have fled to the North
Caucasus remain satisfactory. While the UN is still at the needs
assessment stage, in part because the Russian Government has not
requested its assistance, ICRC has been delivering supplies to the
displaced for several days and plans to augment its Vladikavkaz
(North Ossetia) staffing. End Summary.

2. (U) Refugee Coordinator (RefCoord) spoke with United Nations
Children's Fund (UNICEF), World Food Program (WFP), and
International Committee of the Red Cross representatives August 14
and 15. All were at full throttle responding to recent events that
have led to the arrival of an estimated (GOR figure accepted by
UNHCR) 30,000 South Ossetians in the republics of southern Russia.
WFP, which had planned to conclude its Russian operations in October
due to improved conditions and greater capacity in Chechnya, will
now stay open until at least the end of the calendar year.

WFP
---

3. (SBU) Inge Breuer, WFP Russia's Country Representative, told
RefCoord August 14 that her agency assesses that GOR food aid is
coming through well to South Ossetian arrivals in the North
Caucasus. Breuer added, however, that she believes it is very
important for WFP to be seen as helping the Ossetians as well as the
Georgians. That does not mean matching donations in Russia and
Georgia ton for ton, as clearly Russia has much greater capacity
than Georgia. It does mean showing concern for both sides, she
maintained. Thus far Russia has turned down WFP assistance, but
Breuer hopes that Russia will be included in WFP's upcoming flash
appeal with some sort of subtle phrasing that indicates that
donations will benefit all/all conflict victims. As of September 1
WFP will station a member of international staff in Vladikavkaz to
coordinate the agency's assistance to its new set of beneficiaries.

UNICEF
------

4. (SBU) Kemlin Furley, UNICEF Russia's Acting Country
Representative, stated August 14 that the GOR has not yet asked
UNICEF for any assistance and seems to be covering the fleeing South
Ossetians' immediate needs. Longer term, however, Furley
anticipated the following needs for which the GOR may request
international assistance:

-- Psycho-social/trauma counseling (UNICEF has significant
experience from Beslan; it has also been doing psycho-social work in
Chechnya funded by USAID and in 2008 proposed that PRM fund an
extension of that work to Ingushetia)

-- Education (schools in the region do not have enough places for
all of the displaced children, so capacity will have to be
increased)

-- Primary health care

-- Child protection (monitoring; strengthening North Ossetia's
ombudsman)

Furley, in Geneva on consultations, said she planned to travel to
North Ossetia the week of August 18 to conduct further needs
assessment.

ICRC
----

5. (SBU) In contrast to his UN counterparts' caution while they
await an official Russian go-ahead for aid delivery, ICRC Russia
Deputy Head of Delegation Francois Blancy was pleased August 15 to
report already substantial Red Cross contributions. The ICRC has
been supporting the Russian Red Cross in North Ossetia to bring
non-food items to collective centers housing what the ICRC is
terming "persons fleeing hostilities" (as opposed to "refugees" or
"internally displaced people" - or the UN's "persons of concern").
Blancy reported a first distribution of hygienic items and linens to
about 600 women and children, as well as 150 surgical kits to
hospitals caring for the conflict's wounded. (Note: Blancy
declared that medical supply donations were necessary only in the
first couple of days after the South Ossetians' arrival because
Russia's Emergency Situations Ministry has now set up its own
well-equipped medical centers in the region. End note.)

6. (SBU) Blancy described a "huge" disaster relief machine put in
place by the GOR, backed by political will to ensure that the
machine functions efficiently. The Russians welcome the ICRC's
involvement because the international organization works through the
Red Cross's national society, thus enhancing rather than detracting

MOSCOW 00002440 002 OF 002


from the national character of the relief effort. The GOR itself is
bringing in psychologists and psycho-social experts, many with
experience from the Beslan hostage tragedy, to counsel the arrivals,
and donations are pouring in from individuals and companies all over
Russia. ICRC Russia has asked its headquarters for five additional
expatriate staff members to augment its current 12 expatriate and
200 national staff, but primarily to be ready in case access to
Tskhinvali opens from the north. Blancy said the GOR had assured
his office that visas for the new staff would be expedited.

7. (SBU) Blancy expressed himself not overly concerned about Russian
shelters for the Ossetians that other organizations have said would
need expensive winterization in order to serve displaced persons
remaining in the North Caucasus into the colder months. "What we
hear is that everyone in the camps wants to go home," Blancy said.
If the restoration of Grozniy is any guide, then the Russians should
be able to whip Tskhinvali into habitable shape in a jiffy, he
surmised.

Comment
-------

8. (SBU) ICRC has taken a "constructive engagement" approach toward
Russia, emphasizing the positive especially since its president's
visit in January 2008 and Russian promises to help find those still
missing from the two Chechen conflicts. (Note: Dr. Kellenberger
will again visit Russia the week of August 18, Blancy announced, and
plans are still on for the ICRC President's participation in a
celebration of the 1868 St. Petersburg Declaration in the
northwestern city in November. End note.) In light of what we are
hearing from other IGO's, however, Blancy's praise for the Russians'
humanitarian response may reasonably be taken at face value. Under
these circumstances, the challenge for other humanitarian actors
will be to find and fill in gaps so that none can be accused of
political bias in their outreach to this war's victims.

BYERLE

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