Geneva-based civil defence association used as tool of Russian interests - says RTS report

International Civil Defence Organization office in Geneva's Petit-Lancy district. Source: Alexey M / Eigenes Werk

A Geneva-based international association, the International Civil Defence Organization, (ICDO) is being used by the Russian government as a tool to finance Russian geopolitical interests in Switzerland and around the globe, according to an investigative report by Radio Television Suisse (RTS).

Between 2014 and 2018, the Geneva-based ICDO received CHF 140 million from Moscow, representing 90% of the organization’s funds from its 60 member states, the RTS report said.

The funds received were then almost ‘exclusively’ funnelled back into Russian "humanitarian programmes", the report alleges. A large chunk of ICDO funding ultimately wound up in institutions under the control of its “strategic partner”, the Russian Ministry of Emergency Situations (EMERCOM). Lucrative contracts were also awarded to a Russian-controlled corporation, Vega Radio Engineering Corporation, RTS found.

One of the most expensive projects funded by the ICDO in recent years was the $US 41 million "Serbo-Russian Humanitarian Centre" in the city of Nis, Serbia.

The Serbo-Russian Humanitarian Centre received 41 million from the ICDO. Source: RTS.

Russia has similar ‘humanitarian centres’ in Armenia and Nicaragua. Russia enjoys diplomatic immunity in all these centres.

"With fewer than 60 member states…and this dependence on the provision of funding by a single state, one can clearly question the universal vocation of this organisation," Laurence Boisson de Chazournes, professor of law at the University of Geneva and specialist in international organizations, told RTS.

According to its website, the ICDO is dedicated to supporting national civil defence institutions, in preparing for and responding to disasters, both natural and man-made:

“The ICDO contributes to the improvement of civil defence agencies and structures by providing technical assistance, consulting, training and access to an international network of experts specialised in the prevention and management of [man-made and natural] disasters.“

ICDO awarded a lucrative contract to the Russian-based Vega Radio Engineering Corporation. Source: RTS.

Money sent to companies without employees.In other cases, the money received by Geneva’s ICDO’s office was used to pay companies created just months before they obtained large contracts. In other cases, big sums of money were received by companies that never had any employees, RTS alleged.

Swiss authorities have already shut off support to ICDO. Ever since a whistleblower’s warning was forwarded to the Swiss federal money laundering office in 2018, the Federal Council cut its annual funding of CHF 150,000 for the Organization. Meanwhile, the Banque Cantonale Genevoise (BCGe) and Union Bank of Switzerland (UBS) have closed ICDO’s bank accounts.


Radio Télévision Suisse Une organisation internationale genevoise sous la coupe russe