Latest from the Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine – based on information received up until 20 April 2014, 20:00 (Kyiv time)
This update is provided for the media and the public.
Over the holiday weekend the situation in the western and central Ukraine was calm. Tensions remained in the Donbas - the separatists continued the occupation of the building of the state security service (SBU) in Luhansk as well as several other administrative buildings in Donetsk Oblast. Due to the proximity to this region, the situation in parts of southern and eastern Ukraine remains tense. Both proponents of the unitary Ukraine and separatists declared that their implementation of the Geneva statement depends on the mutual, synchronized disarmament and vacation of buildings.
The situation in Kharkiv remained calm over the weekend. A meeting of anti-Maidan groups on Liberty Square was conducted peacefully. Police presence in the city centre had been notably enhanced, but forces kept a low profile with very few wearing riot gear.
The monitors in Luhansk were approached on several occasions by spontaneous assembled groups, expressing their views. They challenged the position of the Government, and regarded the Geneva Statement as not being relevant to them or likely to be ineffective. In their assessment, a division of Ukraine or union with Russia would be the most likely way to achieve an acceptable quality of life. The team did not find any indications that the Geneva Statement was starting to be implemented in the Luhansk region. Occupants of the SBU building told the team that they would demobilize once the occupied buildings in Kiev were vacated.
The overall situation in Donetsk remained very tense. Occupation of state institutions was ongoing. The Deputy Chief Monitor of Special Monitoring Mission visited Donetsk and met with various local interlocutors. Activists manning the barricades expressed a friendly interest in the Geneva Statement.
In Sloviansk the entire town is under the control of armed groups. The security situation is assessed as deteriorating, and operating conditions for OSCE teams are marginal. The reported shooting incident of 20 April early morning is a worrying deterioration of the situation. Due to unpredictable security risks, it was not possible for the Special Monitoring Mission to reach the scene of the incident in the immediate aftermath of the incident on April 20. However, SMM aims to access the town on Monday April 21.
On 19 April in the morning the monitors from the Kharkiv and Donetsk teams visited Sloviansk. Before reaching the town, they observed multiple checkpoints, each manned by dozens of individuals, most unarmed and unmasked. According to the head of the local branch of the Communist Party, a wish to live in a federal Ukraine was shared by many Sloviansk people. The interlocutor also indicated a significant rise in crime after the take-over of the town by the separatists. Before entering the occupied Town Administration, the monitors observed the heavily barricaded and fortified entrance hall, and the numerous armed and masked individuals present.
Reportedly, local authorities are conducting negotiations at a number of the occupied buildings, in particular in Mariupol and Horlivka. In Mariupol, reports indicate that two out of three groups have left the city hall.
In Makiivka, the city administration building is being “guarded” by some 20 men, but appears to be functioning. OSCE monitors succeeded in entering the building. The building was in good shape, clean and the offices were locked and sealed. Occupiers have been in control of the city administration as of 13 April. There are no barricades and a few persons are guarding the building. There are flags and symbols of the separatists. The city administration is apparently operational.
In Khartsyzk, occupiers are in control of the city administration building. The OSCE Special Monitoring Mission observed barricades. There were men in front of the building, some of whom were wearing uniforms.
On 19 April, at 11:00, the team spoke to the Commander of the Main Police Station in Horlivka (around 40 km north-east of Donetsk), representing the so-called People’s Militia of Donbas. In front of the building the Team observed a group of young men with police metal shields controlling access to the building. Some of them appeared to be as young as 15-16 years old. According to the commander, who was aware of OSCE Special Monitoring Mission’s role, the Police Station had about 50 volunteers (men and women) in the building, on the street and inside the barricades.
The general situation in the Dnepropetrovsk area remained calm and quiet at present. However, some tensions existed and the team monitored a checkpoint under construction, located at the junction to Vilne village on the E105 road to Kharkiv in front of the local administration building. It was manned by three regular district police officers and a civilian. The police officers were carrying automatic weapons; the civilian was unarmed. None of the personnel, to whom the team talked, were aware of the Geneva Statement, and had not received any instructions to remove checkpoints.
According to the Deputy Head of the National Defense – a paramilitary structure, supporting the Kyiv government – there were, as of 19 April, nine checkpoints around the city itself and 26 in total throughout the oblast. The interlocutor made reference to Russian military in civilian clothes in the Dnepropetrovsk region, some of them allegedly armed.
The situation in Kherson and Odessa remained calm. The Kherson team visited the water gate to the channel supplying water to Crimea (at Kalanchak, 85 km south-east of Kherson). According to the gate operator, 85 per cent of the water for Crimea moved through this gate and the present flow was about one third of that noted in the previous year.
In Odessa the team spoke to a group of approximately ten activists of the pro-Maidan Self Defense about their opinion of the Geneva Statement. Overall, they perceived the agreement as a temporary inhibiting factor, but not as a decisive mechanism to solve the current situation. They insisted that the separatists in the East should first leave the buildings which they had occupied. The team asked also two leaders of the local anti-Maidan movement for their view on the Geneva agreements. They were skeptical about its chances, or that the government would implement it. From their point of view, the most important elements of a political solution were immediate freedom of all political prisoners and disarming/disbanding mercenaries brought into Odessa Oblast from other regions.
The anti-Maidan leaders also insisted, that the Kyiv Maidan and Right Sector should disarm first and a referendum at the regional level on constitutional reforms be conducted. They aimed not at secession, but at the establishment of a wider federative state called “Novorossija” within Ukraine.
In the western Ukrainian cities of Chernivtsi, Ivano-Frankivsk and Lviv a festive atmosphere reigned. The Head of the Right Sector in the Lviv Oblast, who talked to the monitors on 20 April, denied responsibility for the attack in Sloviansk the previous night. The interlocutor added that information reported on Right Sector symbols worn by attackers might indicate that the attack was an operation of the Russian FSB with the intention to discredit the Right Sector.
Also in Kyiv, the atmosphere was calm. Parts of the Maidan Square had been cleared up and looked much neater, although barricades and tents remained in place. In Khreshchatyk Street, close to the Maidan, parts of barricades had been removed and replaced with bricks. People in the Maidan reacted ambivalently to the Geneva Statement. According to the Head of th Kyiv City Police, the Kyiv City Hall (a five-floor building) was currently under reconstruction. Maidan activists were still using the first and second floors as self-defense headquarters; however within two or three days they should move to another building where they would have an official rental contract. Reports about beatings of a prominent Cossack have been brought to the attention to the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission. The Mission will verify this incident.