Russia's Red Cross is openly violating the international movement's principles of neutrality and impartiality, the independent Russian news agency Verstka is reporting.
As part of its humanitarian aid, the organization is distributing propaganda material such as T-shirts and mugs with portraits of President Vladimir Putin and the letter "Z" symbolizing support for the war in Ukraine, Verstka reported.
Verstka quotes Valentina, a volunteer, who said humanitarian aid meant for Ukrainian refugees is packed with items emblazoned with "Z" and Putin. She also notes that the Red Cross in Russia has become extremely selective about those allowed into the regional branches, despite the massive offers from those seeking to help thousands of displaced Ukrainians.
The Russian Red Cross is the official designated affiliate of the International Committee of the Red Cross, which declares on its website that it is "neutral, impartial, and independent."
The Russian Red Cross has changed its rules since the Feb. 24 start of the war. Volunteers must come from an "official" organization approved by the Russian government.
For example, youth movements affiliated with the ruling United Russia party are welcome and encouraged to join, as well as members of organizations connected to the Russian Orthodox Church.
The Red Cross is a multinational network of aid societies that is composed of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, the ICRC, and 190 national organizations.
The ICRC is responsible for coordinating aid in armed conflicts while the federation coordinates aid during natural disasters.
Russia had attempted to nationalize its branch, most recently in 2015, when legislation that would have federalized it was proposed but never came to fruition. The leadership would have been appointed by Putin.
However, since then, its leadership has been headed by Putin loyalists, who enacted the volunteer membership model allowing only volunteers from "official" organizations.
The Kirovsk branch of the Russian Red Cross is headed by Yuriy Basmanov, who also belongs to "Boevoe Bratstvo" and the "United Donbas Volunteer Movement."
Boevoe Bratstvo has openly advocated for the war in Ukraine with posts on the Russian social media platform Vkontakte.
"Our troops are being put to the test in their mission to defend the citizens of Donbas from fascist Ukraine," one post said.
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