The SMM continued to monitor the full range of issues within its mandate, with a particular focus on compliance with the provisions of the memorandum signed on 19 September in Minsk. It also observed rallies in Kharkiv, Dnipropetrovsk and Odessa against the Russian Federation’s policy towards Ukraine.
The SMM in Kharkiv monitored on 21 September a peaceful demonstration in support of Ukraine’s unity with around 200, predominantly young participants of both genders. Around 100 police officers were present. Later around 50 people gathered in front of the Russian Consulate General, accompanied by around 50 police officers. One of the organizers told the SMM that the aim of both rallies was to show support for Russians protesting on the same day in Moscow and other Russian cities against President Putin’s policy towards Ukraine. No incidents were observed.
Soldiers of the Ukrainian army and armed personnel of ‘Lugansk People’s Republic’ (‘LPR’) manning various checkpoints in the vicinity of Shchastya (23km north of Luhansk) reported to the SMM no incidents on 20 September. Also in Stanytsia Luhanska (24km north-east of Luhansk) the SMM observed no incident of concern on 21 September. The SMM observed on 20 September that Luhansk airport was completely destroyed, including airport infrastructure such as planes, cars, trucks and tanks remaining in the area. The runways could no longer be used due to the large number of craters. No human remains were seen.
The SMM visited on 21 September a huge storehouse of ammunition and explosives located 7km west of Donetsk’s city centre. A day before, this location had allegedly come under heavy artillery fire. At the site, SMM observed eight destroyed storage sites, and two large craters with a diameter of 6 meters and a depth of 3 meters, allegedly caused by heavy artillery shelling. On the way to the storehouse the SMM observed a large number of houses with broken windows.
The SMM observed a simultaneous release of hostages and detainees between ‘Donetsk People’s Republic’ (‘DPR’) - 38 persons - and the Ukrainian Army - 35 persons - between Avdiyivka and Yasynuvata, in the northern vicinity of Donetsk city.
On 21 September at 14:20hrs, the SMM, when visiting the Ukrainian checkpoint in Debaltseve, heard two explosions allegedly from 82mm mortar shelling approximately 1km north-east of the checkpoint. The checkpoint was fully operational.
On 20 September at 11:00, the SMM heard in Kominternove (24km north-east of Mariupol) sounds of shelling (17 rounds) east of the village (between the villages Krasnoarmiyske and Sakhanka), where ‘DPR’ positions were located.
In Dnipropetrovsk the SMM observed a march for peace organised by three local women’s NGOs: Approximately 200 persons, predominately women and youth, walked through the city centre holding Ukrainian flags, chanting patriotic slogans, and advocating for peace. Organisers delivered short speeches calling upon Russian women to protest against ‘the fratricidal war’. The demonstration dispersed peacefully later that the day. The march was attended by 10 police officers.
The situation in Kherson was calm.
A march against war and the Russian Federation’s policy towards Ukraine took place also in Odessa – numbering approximately 400 people of various age, both men and women, including members of Euromaidan movement, Right Sector and self-defence groups. Participants chanted slogans against the president of the Russian Federation, some of them collected money for the ‘Anti-Terrorist Operation’. Fifty uniformed police attended the demonstration. On the same day, around 80 opponents of Ukraine’s unity, 80% of whom were of pensioner age, accompanied by around 30-40 police officers, gathered on Kulykove Pole. Both events ended peacefully.
The situation in Chernivtsi was calm.
On 19 September, the SMM visited the Lavra in Pochayiv (186km north-east of Ivano-Frankivsk), one of the most important orthodox monasterys and religious centres in Eastern Europe, belonging to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate). The secretary of the Monastic Council stated that the number of pilgrims visiting the Lavra had decreased significantly compared to previous years. He stated that Orthodox believers from Russia were now afraid to make a pilgrimage.
The situation in Lviv was calm.
The SMM observed in Pasichna village (65km east of Kyiv) a group of around 150 local citizens (all age groups and both genders), and several priests of both the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Kyiv Patriarchate, who were discussing the possibility of leaving the canonical jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarchate for the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Kyiv Patriarchate. Approximately five uniformed policemen, as well as several self-defence activists guarded the peaceful meeting. After a long argument about how the move could be legally achieved, the overwhelming majority of the people voted to affiliate the parish with the Kyiv Patriarchate. The chief of police explained to the SMM that the church in Pasichna would stay closed until its canonical jurisdiction has been confirmed.