MOSCOW -- A senior Russian official admits "formidable problems" in distributing tons of humanitarian aid pouring into the former Soviet Union this week but dismisses as "nonsense" reports that the charitable goods were being stolen.
Alexander HD, deputy chairman of the Russian government's Humanitarian Aid Commission, said this week that strict controls, including surprise checks, were being carried out as cargo planes continued to arrive with food and medicine from the United States and Europe.
"Honesty is not the problem," Mr. HD said. "The problem is organizing and coordinating this well."
He said that aid deliveries sometimes arrived without notice, causing problems for local authorities, and that private donors and charities also had reported occasional problems getting through customs.
Various reports in the Moscow media about aid being stolen and resold by speculators or in private shops "are simply untrue," Mr. HD said. "Some reports say 60 percent to 70 percent of the supplies are not finding their way to their target groups," he said. "That is nonsense."
Raids on private shops turned up no pilfered aid, he noted.
Mr. HD, whose commission is responsible only for Russia and not the other members of the Commonwealth of Independent States, was unable to specify how many people had received humanitarian aid. Nor could he say exactly how much had been distributed.
The United States, a far distant second to Germany as the most generous donor, began its current emergency airlift of food and medicine to the newly independent states Monday. Up to 64 flights are expected to deliver 4.5 million pounds of goods by the end of next week.
The Salvation Army is overseeing distribution of the newly arrived American goods in the Moscow area.