Latest from the Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine: information received up until Wednesday, 16 April 2014, 20:00 (Kyiv time)
This update is provided for the media and the public.
The situation in Western and Central Ukraine (Kyiv, Lviv, Ivano-Frankivsk, Chernivtsi) remained calm and stable on 16 April with a routine police presence. In Kharkiv, Dnepropetrovsk, Kherson and Odessa districts the situation is stable. On highways in these areas, roadblocks have been built to secure districts from forces opposed to the Kyiv government. In Luhansk and Donetsk the situation was cause for serious concern due to the ongoing occupation of some administrative buildings and capture of other strategic locations by armed individuals.
The situation in Kharkiv was assessed as calm. On 15 April, in the late afternoon, a peaceful meeting of around 50 people opposed to the Kyiv authorities was held in front of the State TV office. They claimed that the TV had paid insufficient attention to the views of Maidan opponents.
The team visited also Izyum (approximately 120 km southeast of Kharkiv) where the Ukrainian military had been deployed to establish a base for operations in the Donetsk District. According to the head of local administration, the situation in the town was calm, but volunteer self-defence forces supporting the central government had set up roadblocks on smaller access roads. At one of the checkpoints, four to five kilometres from Izyum, roughly 80 to 90 personnel were working under the co-ordination of representatives of the Ministry of Interior. They advised the team not to drive further in the direction of Sloviansk and described the situation further south as “dangerous”, stating that there were additional checkpoints controlled by “separatists”.
The situation in Luhansk remained unchanged. The police presence has not visibly increased in the city. The team observed a group, called “Civic Defence”, who claimed to be going to protect the office of the district administration from forces opposed to the Kyiv government. The team spoke to an officer at the Luhansk police headquarters who was authorized to maintain contacts with the people who had captured the state security service (SBU) building. According to him, the occupants of the building were highly trained former special forces, military and police personnel.
The situation in Donetsk is highly tense, particularly in some parts of the district. The city administration building in Donetsk was barricaded but appeared to be operating normally, and the situation at the occupied oblast administration building remained basically unchanged; but the number of tents around the building had grown. Inside the building, the team observed three policemen.
On the way to Kramatorsk the team saw two checkpoints. The first one was eight km southwest of Kostantinovka, with a large “Donetsk Republic” banner attached to the northern side of a tire barricade. There were significantly fewer people at this barricade than observed on 15 April, although an armed police presence of about six men was visible about 50 metres away from the checkpoint. At another checkpoint, in Druzhkivka, the team was halted at a checkpoint manned by around 20 people, approximately half of whom were women. All were wearing plainclothes, unarmed and unmasked.
At the entrance to Kramatorsk, approximately 100 km north of Donetsk, there was a large sign with “Kramatorsk” on it, which had some of the letters repainted in the colours of the Russian flag. In the town centre the city council building remained surrounded by barricades, and the “Donetsk Republic” flag was flying over the building. At Kramatorsk airfield a handful of opponents of the central government had gathered in front of the local airfield. They attempted to prevent the team from approaching the airport, where two armed Ukrainian soldiers were guarding the entrance. Eventually the team was able to pass and spoke with one of them, who stated that media reports from the previous day regarding the downing of a Ukrainian fighter jet were untrue.
In the village of Krasnotorka, just south of Kramatorsk, the team observed the presence of approximately 15 armoured vehicles with soldiers standing on top of them. Some of the vehicles flew Ukrainian flags.
The team visited the Ukrainian-Russian border crossing near Novoazovsk (approximately 120 km south of Donetsk) at 12:55 on 16 April. The situation on the border was calm and quiet; and private and commercial vehicles bearing various license plates, including Ukrainian, Turkish, and Russian, were observed crossing the border in both directions, with minimal verification of their documents. In Novoazovsk, upon approaching the city hall, the team observed the “Donetsk Republic” flag flying from its roof. A group of around five uniformed police officers could be observed standing near the street, at a distance of several metres from the crowd and building. According to an official with the Border Guards, a part of the local inhabitants supported the “separatists”. Barricades in the front of the occupied Mariupol City Hall had been enlarged, but, as assessed by the Chief of Security at the Mariupol airport, the situation at the airport was calm.
The general situation in Dnepropetrovsk was assessed as calm. The team spoke with the head of a volunteer self-defence organization, who stated that some of the organization’s volunteers were manning checkpoints with additional mobile units, which were able to react as necessary to prevent infiltration.
The general situation in Kherson Oblast remained tense but stable. The team observed several checkpoints manned either by police or by local self-defence forces, the visibility of which was increased compared to previous days. The team also observed the bridge, dam and electric power station at Nova Kakhovka (approximately 75 km east of Kherson), which had been secured by local police. According to the local commander, no incidents had occurred in the past days.
The situation in Odessa was assessed by the team as calm.
In Chernivtsi, Ivano-Frankivsk and Lviv, teams also assessed the situation as calm. According to the head of the local administration of Ivano-Frankivsk there was a great deal of pressure from society for lustration of the civil servants, and for the dismissal of those affiliated with the previous government.
Kyiv was generally calm, with a regular police presence observed throughout the day in the city. The number of tents in the Maidan continues to diminish. According to Ihor Alekseyev, a prominent Communist Party politician, unknown perpetrators had attacked party offices in Kyiv, Rivne, and Sumy District over the past two weeks.