Latest from the Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine - based on information received up until 21 April 2014, 20:00 (Kyiv time)
This update is provided for the media and the public.
The second day of Easter passed quietly in the overwhelming majority of Ukrainian regions, including Odessa and Kherson. Huge tension remained in Donbas (Donetsk and Luhansk districts) related to the activities of opponents of the Government, some of whom were armed, and due to the continued occupation of administrative buildings. The situation was cause for increased concern in Luhansk, where local separatists elected their own governor and called for a referendum on joining Russia.
In Kharkiv, police presence was notably enhanced and major city centre streets as well as two metro stations were closed due to an anti-Maidan rally on Liberty Square. The Special Monitoring Mission also observed a rally where participants elected a so-called “people’s government”. The demonstration gathered a smaller number of participants (around 500 at peak times) than during previous weekends. The protesters, mostly middle-aged workers and pensioners, called for the resignation of the city mayor and prosecutor as well as the return of Viktor Yanukovych. They also elected their own “governor” – Volodymyr Varshavsky. The worsening economic situation was mentioned as a major concern and motivating factor for participating in the demonstration.
On 20 April the Special Monitoring Mission visited a roadblock near Rayhorodka village (45 km northeast of Luhansk) manned by approximately ten people (men and women) in civilian clothes, including the local Orthodox priest. They stated that they were residents of Rayhorodka and set up the roadblock on 14 April to protect the area from the separatists. According to the local commander of the Ukrainian army, no serious incidents at the roadblock had occurred so far, but they could see unknown armed individuals in civilian clothes approaching the roadblock at night.
On the evening of 20 April, in Luhansk, leaflets were posted calling on inhabitants to join a demonstration on 21 April in front of the occupied state security service (SBU) building. The agenda of the rally envisioned voting for new deputies that would represent the people of Luhansk district as well as calling for a referendum on 11 May. The referendum would offer three options: be part of a Ukrainian Federation, join the Russian Federation or remain part of a unitary Ukraine. The leaflet also included a warning addressed to the interim government not to make an attempt to halt activities of the demonstrators – otherwise Russia would be asked to send troops to protect the local population.
On 21 April, the monitors observed a reinforcement of the barricade with sandbags at various locations around the perimeter of the occupied SBU building. Hand-drawn posters around the barricade were gradually being replaced with professionally produced banners. A public meeting outside the SBU building began at 10:00. The protesters – initially about 300 people – remained peaceful. Some of the participants within the cordons were openly displaying hand-held weapons. By 15:00, the crowd reached about 1,500 people. Speakers reiterated that they were not separatists and sought a peaceful solution, which would allow Luhansk to remain within Ukraine.
In Donetsk, on 21 April at 09:30, the Special Monitoring Mission met with the Mayor in order to discuss the situation in the city and region. The team visited also the towns of Makiyivka and Khartsysk, both in close proximity to Donetsk.
In Makiyivka the team noticed the presence of a flag of the so-called Donetsk People's Republic as well as four unmasked and unarmed individuals in front of the main entrance of the Town Hall. They introduced themselves as locals protecting the building from looting and rendering assistance to the local administration police. The representative of the group claimed that the men had thwarted several attempts of vandalism perpetrated by supporters of the Government. Inside the building the team observed around fifteen unarmed and unmasked individuals – some of them wearing flak jackets and carrying batons.
In Khartsysk, the Town Hall was also found to be occupied and surrounded by a barricade of tires and wood manned by five unarmed and unmasked people sitting by the main entrance. The monitors observed several armed men in uniforms exiting and entering the building bearing “Berkut” laminated badges on their chests with the official Ukrainian coat of arms as well as St. George ribbons. Similarly to in Makiyivka, the men explained their presence in the vicinity of the Town Hall as a necessity to provide security to the local institutions.
In Kramatorsk, monitors of the Special Monitoring Mission talked to witnesses who were able to confirm reports that armed individuals who called themselves supporters of the so-called “Donetsk Republic” entered the premises of Kramatorsk police department and abducted its head, Colonel Vitaliy Kolupai, who is being kept against his will.
In other parts of the country – including the cities of Dnepropetrovsk, Odessa, Chernivtsi, Ivano-Frankivsk, Lviv and Kyiv and the respective districts - the situation remained calm with regular police presence. Everywhere people celebrated the second day of Easter. The Chernivtsi team visited an area close to the border of Romania (Krasnoilisk, around 43 south-west of Chernivtsi). People they met on the street were concerned about the situation in the East and the deteriorating security of the country. They voiced no complaints regarding their right to use minority languages, but were dissatisfied with the high level of corruption (including in health care), the economic situation of the state as well as the vulnerability of its economy towards the Russian Federation.
The Lviv team met with the Head of the Right Sector in the city. He declared that all activities of the Right Sector were aimed at supporting the efforts to enhance the defense of the country (including. registering volunteers, providing them with basic physical training without weapons) and that they were co-ordinated with the National Security Council of Ukraine and the Ukrainian Armed Forces. He also asserted that the Right Sector had dissolved its militant wing. It was transforming into a political party and did not consider itself to be a part of the "armed groups" mentioned in the Geneva Statement.
Also in Kyiv, the situation was calm. The Special Monitoring Mission visited a chief ataman of a Cossack organization in hospital who had been beaten three days earlier.