Latest from the Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine - based on information received up until 23 April 2014, 19:00 (Kyiv time)
This update is provided for the media and the public.
Based on monitoring teams’ observations, the situation in Luhansk remained stable; Donetsk remains characterized by heightened tensions; Kharkiv and Odessa remain relatively calm; and the rest of Ukraine is calm.
In Kharkiv the situation remained relatively calm. One rally supporting the unity of Ukraine as well as one demonstration held by opponents of the central government in the city centre throughout the day gathered some 400 participants each, whereas the number of anti-government protesters in front of the city administration building reached a maximum of 150 participants. Both demonstrations ended peacefully. The team met with the prosecutor of the Kharkiv region, his deputy and the head of the regional administration. A high-ranking Ukrainian official in charge of the security situation in the region informed the team that the local police force was currently working on an advanced alert status with up to 50 per cent of personnel prepared to take action around the clock. The interlocutors said that the scope of protests in the city might increase during the May holidays.
The Luhansk team assessed the situation in the city as stable. The situation around the occupied state security service (SBU) building was quiet for the entire day, but the reinforcement of the barricades and a new makeshift roadblock behind the SBU building were observed. A local police outer cordon 300m to 350m long was still present. The Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) met with representatives of a non-governmental organization whose representatives declared that they had been held captive for six hours in the SBU building on 21 April and that approximately 100 men in unmarked uniforms armed with machine guns were occupying the building.
The overall security situation in Donetsk region on 23 April remained tense. Occupation of state institutions was ongoing throughout the region. Whereas the city administration building in Donetsk seemed to be working at least partially freely, despite its occupation, the situation in the Donetsk regional administration building, occupied and surrounded by barricades, seemed to be unchanged. The team was unable to confirm that control of any floors of the latter had been returned to the government.
The team travelled to Sloviansk, passing on the way from Donetsk several checkpoints guarded either by Ukrainian police or by unarmed or armed opponents of the central government. The city administration building in Sloviansk remained heavily fortified by sandbags and manned by several people. The police station and the SBU building also remained heavily fortified by sandbags and guarded by a large number of men with masks, automatic weapons as well as many men dressed in civilian clothing. At the time of the team’s visit, two cars arrived. One of them was a regular Ukrainian police patrol car without license plates. Outwardly, the city of Sloviansk seemed to be very quiet, with no visible protests by the local population. Children were observed playing in a playground right next to the heavily fortified city administration. However, on the basis of their own observations and conversations with local residents the team concluded that the city remained under heavy surveillance, both by people in uniforms and masks, but also by many persons in civilian clothing. According to a local resident, people are afraid to discuss their opinions about the occupiers with one another.
The team also monitored the situation in the city administration building in Mariupol, which remained occupied. Outside the building approximately 40 occupiers were noticed without weapons or masks. A new, professionally designed poster had appeared there, promoting the creation of a “Novorossiya” region that would include the Donbas area as well as the Kherson, Zaporizhzhia and Odessa regions.
The Team met with the chief rabbi of the local Jewish community. He told the team that the anti-Semitic leaflets which had recently been given out in Donetsk, demanding the registration of Jews, had not been distributed in Mariupol. According to him, the environment for Jews in Mariupol had become less favourable in recent years, citing the example of the distribution of anti-Semitic fliers and other activities carried out by a group called the “Union of the Slavs”.
The situation in Dnepropetrovsk remained calm, although the network of roadblocks within and around the city seemed to be increasing. The Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) observed three roadblocks in Pavlohrad, Slovianka and Mykolayivka located on the main highway (M04) leading to Donetsk, manned by the local police and representatives of a voluntary paramilitary organization. The roadblocks appeared to be working very effectively – according to the National Guard Commander of the Pavlohrad roadblock, illegal weapons had been confiscated on two occasions since the barricades have been set up. The team also met with a representative of the Dnepropetrovsk Jewish community. The interlocutor could recall only three or four minor incidents targeting the Jewish community over the past two years. He stated that the community was concerned about the current political situation and that some of its members were considering leaving the region. According to representatives of the organization “Sestrynska Sotnia” (a local women's organization), the total number of registered persons who have arrived from Crimea and are seeking assistance from the local administration is approximately 300 people.
The general situation remained largely unchanged in Kherson, Mykolaiv, and the surrounding areas and was assessed as calm. Small demonstrations organized by pro-government citizens and self-defence groups continued to take place in front of the regional administration building on Kherson’s main square.
In Odessa the general situation remained relatively calm. Roadside checkpoints seemed to be increasing both in importance and number, thus becoming spots of potential confrontation between supporters of Ukrainian unity and people demanding the transformation of Ukraine into a federal state. The team observed a tense standoff between two groups of activists at a checkpoint southwest of Odessa following the stopping of a minibus carrying anti-government activists and loaded with shields, sticks and tires. According to the head of the Regional Administration, a group of anti-government activists had attempted to set up a checkpoint a few kilometres east in Vopniarka. After eight hours of negotiations with local residents they left the scene.
The overall situation in Chernivtsi was calm. The team spoke to the mayor of Hertsa, a town on the border with Romania with a strong Romanian community. The interlocutor did not raise any concerns related to the language legislation in Ukraine.
In Ivano-Frankivsk and Lviv, the situation also continued to be calm. However, according to the Lviv regional governor, with whom the team met, provocations might occur during the May holidays.
The Kyiv team observed the ongoing clearing of barricades in the Maidan square. The situation in the capital city was calm.