Humanitarian aid organisers claim that, due to OSCE observers and customs officers, aid which was gathered in Russia for the residents of Novorossia is piling up at the border
This article originally appeared at Izvestia.ru. Translated for RI by Kristina Aleshnikova
On 12th March the Russian writer, Zakhar Prilepin, who is engaged in the delivery of humanitarian aid to Donbass residents, complained on his Facebook page that humanitarian cargos have been standing idle at Russian customs for the last two weeks.
“For the last two weeks tons and tons of privately collected humanitarian aid is waiting at the Russian border. I don’t know what’s going on with Russian customs, but they are not letting these cargos go at all. People on the other side of the border are fighting in horrific conditions– and there is no reaction” – wrote Prilepin. “I wish that the customs authority officials who give such orders could live for a month or two like people in Debaltseve do.”
This is not the first time that the Nizhny Novgorod author has delivered humanitarian aid to the residents of South-East Ukraine. Most of the funds which Prilepin collected have been spent on medicines, baby food and toiletries. The author drove to more than one hundred locations himself and brought humanitarian aid to large families, the disabled and the elderly.
In Rostov Konstantin Vasiltsov, member of the regional staff of the “Young Guard of United Russia” (MGER) who since 2014 has also been engaged in the collection and despatch of humanitarian convoys to the Donbass, confirmed the queues at the border.
“The difficulties arise because until 17th March the OSCE were carrying out inspections and they started to restrict the amount of cargo carried in order to prevent any unnecessary entries into Ukrainian territory– in particular, from our side of this checkpoint “Uspenka”. But this is a temporary measure. OSCE is not checking every passing car, but choosing carefully, yet this too takes up enough time”, reported Vasiltsov.
According to the representative of MGER, the cargo which their organisation collected has not come up against such problems, because at the moment they are concentrating more on helping the refugees, who are living in the railway station at Rostov. The number of refugees remains large despite the ceasefire and a reduction in the flow of people from Ukraine into Russia. Currently there are around 135 people living in Rostov’s largest railway station.
“Another problem is that when individuals return to Ukraine, many of them don’t have immigration papers with them. Earlier they did not cross the border across official border points - the thing is there is a part of our border with Ukraine which does not have any border controls. Now these refugees are creating bottlenecks at our border as they have no documents regarding their earlier border crossing. It also complicates the delivery of private humanitarian aid, which is sometimes even transported by car, sometimes in “Gazelle” vans.”
DNR envoy Denis Pushilin feels that a lack of centralisation of the delivery process must have led to this problem as there are a great many people who want to help.
Targeted assistance should designate specific bodies, which are authorised to distribute and deliver aid, in order to avoid scams. For some, this isn’t just war – Pushilin told “Izvestia”. The Russian Ministry of Emergency Situations (EMERCOM) has developed a mechanism to inspect all humanitarian cargos. There is an option of returning to the EMERCOM station in your own town, where private help can be checked and sealed, so that customs, where it is more complicated and takes longer, don’t have to check. We are trying to streamline this process.
Further, according to Pushilin, the OSCE monitoring situation at the border doesn’t speed up the process either.
“There are a lot of statements from Kiev that the Russian humanitarian convoys are carrying weapons and other ammunition. The OSCE is therefore obliged to inspect and come to the conclusion that the Kiev statements are a provocation. Basically, they need to stop wanting to make such statements”, said Pushilin.
In LNR they have also confirmed the problem of unofficial humanitarian aid not getting through. The chairman of the National Assembly of LNR Aleksei Karyakin told “Izvestia” that those cargos which are put together by customs are able to enter the territory of the republic, but in fact all humanitarian cargo should be allowed to pass completely.
“Private help is necessary, as a blockade exists on the Ukrainian side, but there are problems associated with this help. As they say, “some people suffer from war and some make a fortune out of it” and many are trying to profit from this awful situation.