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Dutch forensics experts – accompanying the SMM – assessed the storage facilities for bodies on board the train in Torez railway station for victims of the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 crash as “good”. People continue to leave Luhansk city.
In Kharkiv, 150 people held a rally to honour the victims of the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 crash, and Ukrainian soldiers who have died in recent fighting in the east.
A spokesperson for the Kharkiv Governor’s Office announced that 31 international aviation and forensics experts – mostly Dutch – had arrived in Kharkiv to investigate the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 crash. Three of them travelled onwards to the crash site in Donetsk region.
The mayor of Kharkiv announced that he was sending employees of the state-owned electricity company to Sloviansk in Donetsk region to help in ongoing rehabilitation efforts. In Novovodolazhsky district (54 km southwest of Kharkiv), municipal officials informed the SMM that ten internally displaced persons (IDPs) previously living in the district had returned to Sloviansk. The SMM has noted returns to Sloviansk from other parts of Ukraine since the city was retaken by Ukrainian armed forces.
At a Ukrainian military checkpoint west of Svatovo in northern Luhansk region, the SMM observed one bus and 20 private cars full of IDPs passing through from Luhansk city. The commander at the checkpoint said that seven more buses carrying approximately 350 IDPs had passed through the checkpoint earlier that day. He said the IDPs were almost exclusively children, women and old men.
In Svatovo on 20 July, the SMM observed 30 people in an IDP transit camp. The head of the camp said that, since its establishment on 8 June, the camp had temporarily hosted 867 people, 291 of whom were children.
The SMM made a fourth visit to sites related to the crash of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17. Dutch forensics experts – accompanying the SMM – assessed the storage conditions for bodies on board the train at Torez railway station as “good”. The 282 bodies on board – a number provided by representatives of the so-called “Donetsk People’s Republic” (“DPR”) – were not sent to Kharkiv, as previously promised by the “DPR”, because of the alleged shelling of one of the railway stations in Donetsk city, a transit point to Kharkiv city. The SMM observed that all bodies had been removed from the main crash site. Read more in the Spot report by the SMM here.
The situation in Dnepropetrovsk was calm.
The situation in Kherson remained stable. In neighbouring Mykolayiv region, the SMM on 18 July met members of an NGO who fundraise and buy equipment for Ukrainian soldiers serving in the east. Established in March, the NGO has been increasingly active as the number of casualties amongst Ukrainian soldiers has risen. The members said they were finding it difficult to raise enough money to fulfil the need.
In Kulikovo Polye in Odessa, the SMM on 20 July observed that a makeshift memorial commemorating the 2 May Trade Union fire incident had been reinstalled. The previous day it had been removed. On the morning of 21 July, however, the SMM noted that it had again been removed. Later that day, a crowd of 60-70 people held a meeting at Kulikovo Polye with the mayor of Odessa, who denied that an order had been given to remove the memorial. He said that municipal workers charged with cleaning the city had been merely doing their job when they removed flowers and other items. In the afternoon of 21 July, people brought flowers, candles and posters to the memorial site again.
The SMM met the secretary of the Chernivtsi Maidan Association, who highlighted the high degree of involvement of the Regional Administration in mobilising assistance for the military deployed to the east. In Berehomet village (60 km southwest of Chernivtsi), the head of the village council told the SMM about the efforts of local citizens to deliver supplies to the 20 soldiers from the village currently deployed to the east. The SMM also met two of the six IDPs from Donetsk region currently living in the village. They claimed – consistent with information previously received by the SMM – that irregular armed forces in the east were forcing young men to join their ranks. They specifically said that young men had been forced off trains leaving Donetsk city.
A member of Ivano-Frankivsk Regional Council informed the SMM that an NGO, which he heads, purchased body armour and helmets for soldiers serving in the east. He said 15 people from Ivano-Frankivsk had died in the ongoing security operation.