Latest from OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) to Ukraine based on information received as of 18:00 (Kyiv time), 19 August 2014
This report is for media and the general public.
Fighting in the north-eastern part of the Donetsk region and south-eastern areas of the Luhansk region continued. The SMM monitored the situation of the civilian population in Donetsk.
The SMM met on 18 August with the rector of Taras Shevchenko Luhansk University. Since July the university has been operating in four towns: Starobilsk, Lysychansk, Rubizhne and Shchastya. He said that the university, where some 30,000 students had studied before the summer, was facing many problems, since all financial, staff and curricula documentation was left in Luhansk. The new academic year is expected to start on 1 October, as entrance exams began on 15 August. According to the rector, most of the professors, teachers and students support Ukraine’s unity.
Loud explosions consistent with shelling were regularly heard in various parts of Donetsk. During the last couple of days the city was deprived of water because of damage to the electrical pump system. In the meantime the local authorities provide water to the population from trucks; and the SMM saw long lines of people waiting with buckets. Drinking water from shops was purchased by many local people, while fuel for private use was limited. The SMM saw 20-30 vehicles lining up in front of many petrol stations, but for the moment there are no serious problems with food supply or electricity. Trolleybuses were still running but the city appears quite empty: few pedestrians were seen on the streets, and road traffic was very limited.
The SMM saw several houses damaged by artillery, and one dead person - apparently killed by shelling - in his own apartment. Monitors also visited the hospital, which was functioning, although lack of water supply significantly impeded the work of medical staff. A number of empty beds were seen in both female and male rooms.
The situation in Kharkiv and Dnipropetrovsk was calm.
The head of the Moldovan Association in Ukraine informed the SMM in Odessa that inter-ethnic relations in the Odessa region, where most Moldovans live, were good overall. Currently, there are 18 Moldovan schools in the region offering education from the levels of primary to high school.
The SMM visited on 18 August a military hospital in Vinnytsia – a regional capital, 303 km north-east of Chernivtsi. The medical staff said that most injured soldiers, including officers, in the hospital were treated for lost limbs or head injuries. The SMM interviewed five injured professional officers of the Ukrainian army ranging in age from 23 to 40. All of them, including three who were badly injured, said that after their recovery they would return to Donbas.
The situation in Ivano-Frankivsk was calm.
The deputy commander of the Western Regional Border Service Command said, during a press conference in Lviv, attended by the SMM, that the mobilization process was not an obstacle for male Ukrainian citizens wishing to cross the border out from Ukraine, unless there were criminal cases against them reported by law enforcement agencies. According to the speaker, the Ukrainian Border Service does not have a separate database of mobilization-related cases.
The SMM met representatives of the Polish community in Lutsk, the regional capital of the Volhynian region, 156 km north-east of Lviv. Interlocutors assessed the relations with both the local Ukrainian population and authorities as positive. They did not raise any particular complaints. The interlocutors reported on the recent anniversary of the ‘Volhynian massacre’, stating that the event commemorating around 100,000 Polish victims in 1943-1944 was well attended this July, including by the Volhynian governor, and held in a spirit of reconciliation. However, interlocutors were concerned about the recently-launched initiative by some local politicians to set up a monument in the city to Stepan Bandera, a leader of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists, whose armed underground movement - the UPA - is blamed by many for the deaths of the Poles.
The SMM in Kyiv met on 18 August with a producer and three journalists from TV Channel 112, the only Ukrainian TV channel present in the areas of Donbas controlled by irregular armed groups. The interlocutors claimed that they could report what they wanted from the region as long as they were careful with terminology, for example, by referring to military personnel of ‘Donetsk People’s Republic’ and ‘Luhansk People’s Republic’ as ‘militants/rebels’ instead of ‘terrorists’. One of the journalists said that he had been abducted on 1 August, together with two colleagues, by a voluntary Ukrainian battalion and kept in custody for five days. When imprisoned by the Dnipro-1 Battalion, he claimed to have been mistreated and kept blindfolded.
Maidan activists, who had moved from Maidan square in Kyiv to an island in the Dnieper, near the city centre, confirmed that their resettlement had been agreed with the city administration. An interlocutor representing a Cossack sotnia (a company) claimed that they had initially given consent only to vacate the street and not the pedestrian sections of Maidan Square, but the city decided to clear the entire area. They stated that approximately 30 people were currently living in the camp, roughly the same number that had been living on the Maidan.
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