Press Releases

PRESS RELEASE : The Red Cross should act more powerfully in the issue of access to prisoners in Russia and in the occupied territories – President of Ukraine at the PACE autumn session [October 2022]

The press release issued by the President of Ukraine on 13 October 2022.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) must show more persistence and act more powerfully in the issue of gaining access to prisoners in the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine and in the Russian Federation. This was emphasized by President Volodymyr Zelenskyy during his participation in the PACE plenary autumn session.

“We Ukrainians cannot fight for the Red Cross to find an opportunity. The Red Cross has to fight because it’s their job, because they get paid for it, because the whole world is watching them. They should put pressure on Russia to get there (to the places of detention of prisoners – ed.),” the Head of State said.

The President noted that the conditions of detention of civilian and military prisoners in Russia-controlled territories are a priority humanitarian issue, and this became obvious to the whole world after the terrorist attack in Olenivka, when more than 50 prisoners were blown up.

“And here the main issue is the access of the Red Cross. I would like to address you and, on your honorable platform, address the representatives and leadership of the Red Cross: they must have access to the prisoners,” said the Head of State.

However, as stated by Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the ICRC has not demonstrated effectiveness in the issue of access to Ukrainian prisoners since the very beginning of Russian aggression against Ukraine in 2014.

“This has been the case since the beginning of the occupation of our Crimea and Donbas – there was no access to our prisoners. The Red Cross cannot get there. This has been the case for eight years. And now, when thousands of our prisoners are in the temporarily occupied parts of Donbas after the full-scale invasion, where they are being tortured – we know that – and whatever is being done to them, the Red Cross also has no access,” he said.

The President expressed his conviction that the ICRC should put more pressure on the Russian authorities, in particular in the public space, in order to gain access to all prisoners.

“I don’t see their constant appearances in the media, pressure on Russia, speeches at the UN General Assembly. I don’t see this media, information, any kind of pressure,” Volodymyr Zelenskyy said.

According to him, Ukraine, on its part, with the help of various mechanisms, organizations and partner countries, is doing everything possible to release prisoners and exchange military personnel. He noted the help of the UN and Secretary-General of the Organization António Guterres, Türkiye, which helped free the defenders of Azovstal, and partners from Saudi Arabia, which contributed to the release of captured citizens of the United States, Great Britain, Sweden and Croatia.

“I believe that we should all be involved. I believe that the Red Cross should act more powerfully,” said the President.

In the context of humanitarian support for Ukraine, the Head of State also thanked the partner countries for the medical aid. In particular, he expressed gratitude to France, which from the very beginning of the full-scale war contributed to the evacuation of children with cancer.

Volodymyr Zelenskyy stated: Ukraine’s medical infrastructure has shown itself well during the fight against COVID, but it is very difficult to cope with the huge challenges that have arisen due to the full-scale invasion of Russia. Therefore, our state needs further assistance, particularly in the medical field.

“There is a large number of wounded, and therefore we will definitely need such help. We can’t talk about the details right now because everything is needed. There are special hospitals that are deployed in the de-occupied territories, there are also mobile hospitals, hospitals that are deployed at the front. There is separate support for rehabilitation programs. That is, there is a lot to help with. And if there is a desire, we will be grateful,” the Head of State summarized.