Murders force aid agencies to quit anarchy of Grozny

Aid agencies working in Chechnya and neighbouring Russian republics yesterday reacted with shock and disbelief at the attack which killed six Red Cross personnel - five of them women nurses - and wounded one.

All the international aid agencies had last night pulled their staff out of the immediate vicinity of Grozny, which was deemed too anarchic for them to operate in effectively, or were prepared to do so if the situation deteriorates.

"This is an attack directed at far more than six aid workers from the International Committee of the Red Cross", said Kim Gordon-Bates, a spokesman for the Geneva-based organisation, which operates in war zones to protect victims of war, whether prisoners, wounded or victims of associated diseases such as TB and polio.

"It is an image of conflict to come. It is what happens when people in positions of responsibility have hidden agendas. It is very serious writing on the wall. If someone wants to boast of the murder of five women in their beds - let them boast..."

The Red Cross had 20 workers in Chechnya. Last night the 13 who had survived and not been wounded had been withdrawn to Nalchik, the main airfield for Grozny, used by the Russian forces in the disastrous military campaign terminated recently.

The Red Cross said the move was temporary and that the organisation remained independent of other international agencies. "We've frozen operations for now," Mr Gordon-Bates said. "A certain number of answers have to be given: the whos, the whys. The people who did this knew what they were doing. They knew damn well it was a hospital. It was extremely well-marked."

The Red Cross make a point of being well-known in the areas where it is operating as this is the best form of security. The ICRC has a "Dissemination Department" whose job is to ensure every official and soldier on every checkpoint is told what the Red Cross does and why, and why the Red Cross should be allowed to do it. Only when full "political preparation" is complete does it set up a permanent base, such as the hospital where the staff attacked early yesterday morning were working.

The international aid agencies or non-governmental organisations recruit people, mainly in their thirties, with a wide range of relevant skills for relief and development work. Medical staff - doctors, nurses and medical technicians - are particularly valued. Service abroad with an international agency, gaining experience of primary health care and certain diseases rare in the West, is a step on the promotion ladder for many medical personnel, while others find work as a GP or junior hospital doctor in Western country dull or frustrating. Former armed services personnel, officers and senior NCOs, are also attracted to the work.

Like everyone who works in the aid business in Chechnya, the Red Cross workers were willing to do their job amid considerable danger. Since the war began, in December 1994, two foreign aid workers - an American and a Finn - have been killed. Others have been subject to threats, intimidation, and kidnappings. This year nine people from the ICRC, have been kidnapped, for brief periods, in a rash of abductions from almost every aid agency.

One of these occurred at the Novye Atagi hospital this autumn, although it was quickly resolved by the agency, using its Chechen contacts.

According to the Red Cross, security had since been tightened up, but the building was not heavily guarded. Clearly, the murders - a low point, even by the dismal standards of blood-soaked Chechnya - were beyond anyone's worst expectations.

Yesterday leaders in Chechnya's temporary separatist-led government were quick to condemn the killings. The deputy prime minister, Movladi Udugov, described them as "a dreadful link in the chain of provocations aimed against the fragile peace in Chechnya".

But it will require more than words to coax the Red Cross back to the republic, where it has been providing extensive medical aid, food and other assistance. The agency, the largest in action in the war zone, will want solid guarantees that its workers will be safe.

Arts and Entertainment
The cast of The Big Bang Theory in a still from the show
tvBig Bang Theory filming delayed by contract dispute over actors' pay
England celebrate a wicket for Moeen Ali
sportMoeen Ali stars with five wickets as Cook's men level India series
peopleGuitarist, who played with Aerosmith, Lou Reed and Alice Cooper among others, was 71
Robyn Lawley
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
i100  ... he was into holy war way before it was on trend
Life and Style
lifeDon't get caught up on climaxing
Life and Style
food + drinkVegetarians enjoy food as much as anyone else, writes Susan Elkin
Arts and Entertainment
Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe), Hermione Granger (Emma Watson) and Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint)
newsBloomsbury unveils new covers for JK Rowling's wizarding series
scienceScientists try to explain the moon's funny shape
Usain Bolt confirms he will run in both the heats and the finals of the men's relay at the Commonwealth Games
commonwealth games
peopleHowards' Way actress, and former mistress of Jeffrey Archer, was 60
Life and Style
Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson voice the show’s heroes
gamingOnce stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover
Arts and Entertainment
As Loki in The Avengers (2012)
filmRead Tom Hiddleston's email to Joss Whedon on prospect of playing Loki
voices In defence of the charcoal-furred feline, by Felicity Morse
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior IT Trainer - Buckinghamshire - £250 - £350 p/d

£200 - £300 per day: Ashdown Group: IT Trainer - Marlow, Buckinghamshire - £25...

Education Recruitment Consultant- Learning Support

£18000 - £30000 per annum + Generous commission scheme: AER Teachers: Thames T...

All Primary NQT's

£100 - £120 per day + per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Description Calling a...

Supply Teachers Needed in Thetford

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Supply teachers neede...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star