Humanitarian agencies suspend operations in Chechnya after kidnapping of aid worker

Prague Watchdog condemns the kidnapping of Kenny Gluck, a relief worker of Médecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), in Chechnya on Jan 9, 2001 and hopes that the circumstances of the incident will be thoroughly investigated and the perpetrators brought to justice.

Prague Watchdog admires the courage of relief workers who are operating in the war-torn republic and the neighbouring region and hopes that the incident will not affect their relief efforts in the long run.

Prague Watchdog calls on the participants in the conflict to stop using methods of force and violence against civilians, which have failed to bring law and order to the country, and to start making effective moves leading to a lasting peace and stability in the whole region.

Prague, January 11, 2001

The immediate reaction of aid agencies to the kidnapping of MSF's Kenny Gluck on Jan 9, 2001:

MSF condemns attack on humanitarian relief workers

Amsterdam, 10 January 2001. Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) strongly condemns the attack on a humanitarian convoy and the capture of an MSF relief worker in Chechnya yesterday. Following this incident, MSF suspended its operations in Chechnya for security reasons.

MSF entered Ingushetia at the end of 1999, following the resumption of the Chechen conflict, and began assisting the displaced Chechen population. In February 2000, MSF gained access to Chechnya and initiated medical relief projects for the most vulnerable people.

From the beginning of its operations in Chechnya, MSF has always worked with the approval of the civilian and military authorities. MSF does not, however, operate under armed protection as this conflicts with the independent, humanitarian principles of the organisation.

MSF supports hospitals, maternity wards and dispensaries throughout Chechnya, providing medical supplies and rehabilitating surgery facilities and patient wards. Besides their activities in Chechnya, MSF is also assisting displaced Chechens in neighbouring countries with food provision medical supplies and shelter.

MSF is an international medical organisation, whose goal is to provide medical and humanitarian assistance to victims of war, conflict and disasters. This assistance is given without any political, religious or ethnic discrimination.

MSF is independent, and is mainly funded by public donations from the 18 countries where it has representative offices. In 1999 MSF was awarded the Nobel Peace Price for its humanitarian work throughout the world.

For further information please contact MSF Canada at 416-964 0619 or the MSF Press office in Amsterdam: 011 31 20 520 8776, or 31 65439 4727

Source: Médecins Sans Frontières

A note by Prague Watchdog: On November 22, 2000 MSF published an extensive report called "CHECHNYA - THE POLITICS OF TERROR" on human rights abuses and civilian casualties in Chechnya. See our Survey of Human Rights Materials - November 2000.

Chechnya: Action contre la Faim temporarily suspends its programmes in Chechnya

Jonathan Littell, Head of Mission of Action contre la Faim North Caucasus, is now safely out of Chechen territory after being ambushed in Chechnya on Tuesday, January 9, 2001. Contrary to media reports, Mr. Littell, 33, a US citizen, is unhurt and well.

The Action contre la Faim team, comprised of Mr. Littell and a driver, together with a team from Médecins sans Frontières, were carrying out an assessment of humanitarian needs south of Grozny. While returning to Ingushetia, they were ambushed by unidentified and armed gunmen. Mr. Littell and his driver succeeded in escaping; unfortunately, the MSF expatriate was taken away by the attackers.

Since March 2000, Action contre la Faim has been providing humanitarian aid to displaced persons and local inhabitants in the Chechen Republic districts of Achkhoi-Martan, Groznenski Selskii, Shatoi, Itum-Kale and Sharoi. All Action contre la Faim's actions are regularly coordinated with the Chechen Temporary Administration, and the Federal Forces have provided all necessary authorizations and permits ("propusks").

Following this serious incident, Action contre la Faim has decided to temporarily suspend its activities in Chechen Republic territory.

Action contre la Faim expresses its complete solidarity with Médecins sans Frontières. Action contre la Faim firmly condemns such criminal acts against humanitarian fieldworkers, which can only worsen the fate of civilians.

Source: Action Contre la Faim

United Nations halts Chechen projects after kidnap

MOSCOW, Jan 11 (Reuters) - The United Nations has suspended humanitarian operations in Chechnya and said on Thursday the kidnapping of a U.S. charity worker in the rebel region could have serious repercussions for future aid projects.

Separatist rebels have rejected Russian allegations that they kidnapped Kenny Gluck, the head of the North Caucasus mission of aid group Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF). But MSF has also suspended work in Chechnya after the attack.

"The U.N. suspended operations inside Chechnya yesterday (Wednesday). It is continuing operations in other areas of the North Caucasus where it is working," said Toby Lanzer, head of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Moscow.

"We are reviewing the situation regularly," he said, adding that the kidnapping "could well have serious consequences for aid programmes in the republic of Chechnya".

Lanzer said the U.N. did not have any staff in Chechnya at the time of the kidnapping but a shipment of food to about 90,000 Chechens under the World Food Programme had been postponed after the abduction.

He said the European Community Humanitarian Office -- which last year gave $19 million in cash and practical donations to aid programmes in the North Caucasus -- had also instructed agencies which it funds to halt their Chechen operations.

Gluck, 38, was seized on Tuesday near the town of Starye Atagi some 20 km (12 miles) south of the regional capital Grozny, after gunmen opened fire on a convoy of vehicles.

Another car carrying Jonathan Littel, an American working for Action Contre La Faim (Action Against Hunger), managed to smash through the ambush, though Littel was slightly wounded.

Reprinted with permission from Reuters, COPYRIGHT REUTERS 2001


The Danish Refugee Council and ASF-Danish People's Aid suspended their humanitarian operations on Chechen territory. The suspension is due to the kidnapping of the humanitarian aid worker, Kenneth Gluck, who was taken hostage on 9 January by unidentified masked men near the village of Stary Atagi in Chechnya.

Apart from a full suspension of the humanitarian assistance on Chechen territory until further notice, the Danish refugee organisations have reduced the number of international staff operating from the field office in Nazran, Ingushetia. However, the Danish Refugee Council and ASF-Danish People's Aid will continue their humanitarian assistance programs in Ingushetia and Daghestan.

The Danish refugee organisations are the largest humanitarian operators in the North Caucasus and are monthly providing almost 400,000 vulnerable people with food in Chechnya, Ingushetia and Daghestan. Apart from food, DRC/ASF also work with reconstruction of war damaged houses in Chechnya and other assistance project for the war affected civilian population. DRC/ASF are operating partly as implementing partners for the United Nations and partly on funding from the European Union and the Danish Government.

For further information, please contact:

Tom Trier, Country Program Manager, Danish Refugee Council (English)
mob. +7 8652 - 919 047, tel. +7 8652 - 94 39 97, e-mail:
Zelim Yandarov, Special Advisor, Danish Refugee Council (Russian)
mob. +7 8652 - 913 789, tel. +7 8652 - 35 69 15, e-mail:

Danish Refugee Council
ul. Lenina 458
355 029 Stavropol
Russian Federation

Source: Danish Refugee Council

ECHO funded Non-Governmental Organisations suspend operations in Chechnya

Brussels, 12 January 2001 - On January 10, Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) funded by the EC Humanitarian Aid Office (ECHO) suspended their operations in Chechnya until further notice due to the security situation in the region. This suspension follows the kidnapping of an American humanitarian aid worker (Mr Kenny Gluck) employed by Médecins Sans Frontières (Holland). MSF Holland is funded inter-alia by ECHO. The decision to temporarily cease operations was taken in consultation with the UNOCHA office in Moscow and ECHO partners.

All NGOs funded by ECHO to work in the Northern Caucasus are contracted to co-operate with the UN Security Co-ordinator on all security aspects of their operations. The European Commission delegation and the ECHO team in Moscow are monitoring the situation closely in close co-ordination with the UN authorities, the Dutch and US Embassies and NGOs. Humanitarian operations in neighbouring Ingushetia continue for the time being. The member of the European Commission responsible for Development and Humanitarian Aid, Mr Poul Nielson, stated, " I strongly condemn this kidnapping and call for the rapid release of Mr Gluck. It is unacceptable that humanitarian organisations are not able to freely carry out their work assisting those in need. There is a clear need to improve security and access for UN agencies and NGOs working in Chechnya. During the last year, the European Commission has, including at the highest level, urged the Russian authorities to give access for humanitarian NGO's to use the UN sponsored humanitarian VHF radio net in the area. I now repeat this request."

In this protracted conflict, the size and vulnerability of the affected population continue to grow. The EU is by far the largest donor of humanitarian aid to the Northern Caucasus. ECHO has allocated €25.6 million since the beginning of the current crisis in September 1999. Previous ECHO funding made available in the 1994-96 conflict amounted to €30 million. The most recent funding decision taken by the European Commission, worth €2.4 million, was taken in December 2000. This decision is specifically targeted at supporting vulnerable groups in Chechnya and Ingushetia through the winter, providing shelter, clothing, food aid and medicines. These funds provide assistance to an estimated 117 000 Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Chechnya and 138 000 in Ingushetia. The implementing partners for this latest project are the UNHCR, the ICRC, the Danish Refugee Council and the International Rescue Committee.

Source: Reliefweb


Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria

- a press release On the kidnapping of the US citizen Kenny Gluck.

Office of the President of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria

- a press release On the disapperance/kidnapping of the US citizen Kenny Gluck.


Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation

- a press release On the kidnapping of the US citizen Kenny Gluck in Chechnya (only in Russian).


Compiled by Prague Watchdog


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