Updated 4:40 p.m. Moscow Time
MOSCOW, October 8 (RIA Novosti) - Russia is planning to send humanitarian aid to Iraq to help the civilian population caught in the midst of armed clashes between Islamic State (IS) militants and government-led forces, Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov told RIA Novosti Wednesday.
"Russia has always supported and continues to consistently support the efforts by Iraqi authorities to fight Islamic State militants," Bogdanov, who is the special envoy of the Russian president for the Middle East, said.
"We do realize that the country is facing a real humanitarian catastrophe, involving large numbers of refugees and internally displaced residents. We are planning to send a shipment of Russian humanitarian aid to Iraq in the near future," the diplomat said.
Late in September, during a meeting with the Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Abadi, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov had also confirmed Russia's readiness to support the Iraqi authorities in their struggle against the terrorist threat and in particular against the IS.
The Islamic State (IS), formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) or the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), is a Sunni extremist group which has been fighting against the Syrian government since 2012. In June 2014, IS militants extended their attacks to northern and western Iraq. The group has seized vast areas in both countries and declared a caliphate on the territories under its control
The United Nations estimates that, in total, up to 1.8 million people have been displaced in Iraq since January, 2014, amid IS advances. On Tuesday, the Deputy United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator in Iraq, Kevin Kennedy said that the humanitarian situation in Iraq continues deteriorating and requires urgent action from the international community. He added that the current Iraqi humanitarian crisis may turn into a "deadly, life threatening situation" with the beginning of the winter season, when the temperatures can reach negative 16 degrees Celsius (about 3 degrees °F).