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Global aid groups voice outrage at ban by Ukraine rebels

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Global relief organisations voiced shock and disbelief on Friday over Ukrainian separatists' decision to ban 10 Western health groups for "grave violations" of local laws.

The pro-Russian eastern region of Lugansk on Thursday blacklisted such world-renowned organisations as Doctors Without Borders (MSF) and the Czech Republic's People in Need (PIN).

But it spared the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) -- targeted earlier this month for allegedly breaching fire safety rules.

The rebels on Friday also denied assertions by the United Nations that its aid providers had been told to leave the war-torn industrial heart of the former Soviet state.

"UN representatives are continuing their work in the People's Republic of Lugansk," the self-proclaimed region's cabinet chief Vasily Nikitin told AFP by telephone.

But the various health relief groups said it was hard to fathom that they would be forced to leave one of Europe's most devastated corners for apparent political reasons.

MSF said it was alarmed by the decision and denounced it as "unacceptable".

"We have been one of the few organisations with significant medical activities in the area and we are therefore extremely surprised and disappointed about the events," MSF spokeswoman Corinne Baker told AFP.

Pro-Russian insurgents have imposed strict limits on foreign assistance and human rights groups&apos...
Pro-Russian insurgents have imposed strict limits on foreign assistance and human rights groups' operations in the self-declared republic of Lugansk
Zurab Javakhadze, AFP/File

"There has been no physical threat of violence against MSF staff. However, the presence of armed men inside our office was certainly a way to try to intimidate our team, which we find unacceptable."

The Czech Republic's PIN group said it had been given no clear explanation as to why they were being shut down.

"We are not aware of having violated any rules," PIN chief Simon Panek told Prague's CTK news agency.

"If 10 out of 11 organisations in the place have breached them at the same time and the UN humanitarian coordination says it's a serious breach of the international humanitarian law, the problem will rather be on the other side."

- 'No meaningful assistance' -

The United Nations estimates that the 17-month conflict on the European Union's eastern frontier has claimed the lives of nearly 8,000 people and injured almost 18,000 -- most of them civilians.

The war has also devastated hospitals and left staff short of basic medicines and reliable electricity supplies required to perform life-saving operations.

Insurgents in the neighbouring Donetsk province said on Friday that MSF had permission to keep its centres open through the end of the year. They added that the ICRC -- its operations suspended last month -- would be allowed to resume work as soon as they signed a new agreement proposed by the rebel command.

Yet most militia take an extremely cautious view of any Western presence in areas under their control.

Kiev believes that convoys of trucks from Russia provide very little food and are instead packed wit...
Kiev believes that convoys of trucks from Russia provide very little food and are instead packed with powerful weapons the militias cannot otherwise obtain
Odd Andersen, AFP/File

They rely on humanitarian assistance from Russia -- who has long denied fomenting or supporting the revolt -- and view the United States and European Union as misguided allies of Kiev's new pro-Western government.

"This is a banal expression of an anti-Western and anti-American phobia," Penta Research Centre analyst Volodymyr Fesenko told AFP by phone.

"They view people who look different and speak English as American spies."

The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) said Russia's 38th convoy of 64 vehicles had crossed into the Donetsk region without undergoing required checks from Western monitors or Ukrainian customs officials.

Kiev believes that the trucks provide very little food and are instead packed with powerful weapons the militias cannot otherwise obtain.

Lugansk leader Nikitin said the banned International Rescue Committee -- founded by Albert Einstein and currently chaired by Britain's David Milliband -- and PIN "provided no meaningful assistance at all."

He added that MSF was storing "banned drugs" that had no license in either Russia or Ukraine.

MSF has previously denied the claim.

Global relief organisations voiced shock and disbelief on Friday over Ukrainian separatists’ decision to ban 10 Western health groups for “grave violations” of local laws.

The pro-Russian eastern region of Lugansk on Thursday blacklisted such world-renowned organisations as Doctors Without Borders (MSF) and the Czech Republic’s People in Need (PIN).

But it spared the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) — targeted earlier this month for allegedly breaching fire safety rules.

The rebels on Friday also denied assertions by the United Nations that its aid providers had been told to leave the war-torn industrial heart of the former Soviet state.

“UN representatives are continuing their work in the People’s Republic of Lugansk,” the self-proclaimed region’s cabinet chief Vasily Nikitin told AFP by telephone.

But the various health relief groups said it was hard to fathom that they would be forced to leave one of Europe’s most devastated corners for apparent political reasons.

MSF said it was alarmed by the decision and denounced it as “unacceptable”.

“We have been one of the few organisations with significant medical activities in the area and we are therefore extremely surprised and disappointed about the events,” MSF spokeswoman Corinne Baker told AFP.

Pro-Russian insurgents have imposed strict limits on foreign assistance and human rights groups&apos...

Pro-Russian insurgents have imposed strict limits on foreign assistance and human rights groups' operations in the self-declared republic of Lugansk
Zurab Javakhadze, AFP/File

“There has been no physical threat of violence against MSF staff. However, the presence of armed men inside our office was certainly a way to try to intimidate our team, which we find unacceptable.”

The Czech Republic’s PIN group said it had been given no clear explanation as to why they were being shut down.

“We are not aware of having violated any rules,” PIN chief Simon Panek told Prague’s CTK news agency.

“If 10 out of 11 organisations in the place have breached them at the same time and the UN humanitarian coordination says it’s a serious breach of the international humanitarian law, the problem will rather be on the other side.”

– ‘No meaningful assistance’ –

The United Nations estimates that the 17-month conflict on the European Union’s eastern frontier has claimed the lives of nearly 8,000 people and injured almost 18,000 — most of them civilians.

The war has also devastated hospitals and left staff short of basic medicines and reliable electricity supplies required to perform life-saving operations.

Insurgents in the neighbouring Donetsk province said on Friday that MSF had permission to keep its centres open through the end of the year. They added that the ICRC — its operations suspended last month — would be allowed to resume work as soon as they signed a new agreement proposed by the rebel command.

Yet most militia take an extremely cautious view of any Western presence in areas under their control.

Kiev believes that convoys of trucks from Russia provide very little food and are instead packed wit...

Kiev believes that convoys of trucks from Russia provide very little food and are instead packed with powerful weapons the militias cannot otherwise obtain
Odd Andersen, AFP/File

They rely on humanitarian assistance from Russia — who has long denied fomenting or supporting the revolt — and view the United States and European Union as misguided allies of Kiev’s new pro-Western government.

“This is a banal expression of an anti-Western and anti-American phobia,” Penta Research Centre analyst Volodymyr Fesenko told AFP by phone.

“They view people who look different and speak English as American spies.”

The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) said Russia’s 38th convoy of 64 vehicles had crossed into the Donetsk region without undergoing required checks from Western monitors or Ukrainian customs officials.

Kiev believes that the trucks provide very little food and are instead packed with powerful weapons the militias cannot otherwise obtain.

Lugansk leader Nikitin said the banned International Rescue Committee — founded by Albert Einstein and currently chaired by Britain’s David Milliband — and PIN “provided no meaningful assistance at all.”

He added that MSF was storing “banned drugs” that had no license in either Russia or Ukraine.

MSF has previously denied the claim.

AFP
Written By

With 2,400 staff representing 100 different nationalities, AFP covers the world as a leading global news agency. AFP provides fast, comprehensive and verified coverage of the issues affecting our daily lives.

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