Latest from the Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine – based on information received up until 17 April 2014, 20:00 (Kyiv time)
This update is provided for the media and the public.
The situation in Western and Central Ukraine remains calm, whereas in Luhansk and Donetsk districts it is tense due to the activity of armed opponents of the central government, and Ukrainian special forces conducting a “counterterrorist operation”. In the southern part of the country and in other parts of Eastern Ukraine some tension was felt and, overall, the number of roadblocks in Kharkiv, Dnepropetrovsk, Kherson and Odessa appeared to have increased.
The situation in Kharkiv is relatively calm. The team saw two police checkpoints on the road to Dnepropetrovsk and Donetsk, manned by police and members of Ukrainian special forces units.
The situation remained mostly unchanged in Luhansk, with the state security service (SBU) building continuing to be occupied. The team met with representatives of the people who had captured the building. They explained their expectations, notably a referendum on the transformation of Ukraine into a federal state - organized prior to the presidential elections –, an amnesty for former soldiers of Ukrainian special forces units and the introduction of Russian as an official language in Ukraine. Around 23:00, the people occupying the building were acquainted by the team with the outcome of the Geneva meeting. They seemed confused about the agreement, since they understood the term “amnesty” as a measure which could be granted only after a court trial. They said that their main demand, to have a referendum held before the presidential elections, seemed not to have been met.
In Donetsk at 13:30 on 17 April, the team observed the occupied oblast administration building with some 150 people inside the barricades. Russian television programmes were broadcast there, including President Putin's live question-and-answer session. The city administration office, also occupied by opponents of the central government, appeared to be working normally. At 18:00, following information about a disruptive protest at the Donetsk International Airport, the team visited the airport to verify the situation on the ground. In its assessment, the overall situation was normal and calm. At the departures hall, the team observed the presence of around 30 people of different age groups with St. George’s ribbons on their clothes and one man with a “Donetsk People’s Republic” flag on his shoulders.
The Donetsk team spoke also to the local Rabbi, who confirmed media reports about anti-Jewish fliers signed by the self-declared “People’s Governor of Donbas” (the Ukrainian and Russian name for the area covering the Donetsk and Luhansk regions). The text called upon local Jewish people to present themselves for registration, threatening deportation and confiscation of property if they failed to do so. According to the Rabbi, on 15 April, three or four masked men arrived on foot at the synagogue and handed several of these fliers to people located on the premises. They returned later that night by car and handed out more of the fliers. The self-declared governor denied that he and his office were responsible for the flier.
The team observed armed Ukrainian police watching the activities of the traffic police in Volnovakha (approximately 60 km south of Donetsk).
In Mariupol, as of 11:25, there were no helicopters or aircraft seen flying over the city. The town appeared to be functioning normally. The Mariupol Administration building remained occupied, with the flag of the “Donetsk Republic” flying on top of the eastern structure and the flag of the former Soviet Union flying on top of the west building. Mariupol’s Mayor claimed that the City Administration building had been occupied by 40 fighters assisted by Russian intelligence officers, and that most of the Mariupol and Donbas population were in favor of significant decentralization of Ukraine but did not support separatism.
The team left Mariupol, travelling to the Ministry of Interior Internal Forces compound, arriving at 13:12. Outside the entrance of the compound there was a government jeep which had been fired upon and was damaged both inside and out. There were traces of blood observed on the outside of the right doors and the rear tailgate of the vehicle. The metal gates to the compound entrance had at some point been removed and discarded to the side of the road. The entrance had been blocked by two large government trucks, parked facing into the compound. Upon entering the compound, the team observed that the front of both trucks had bullet holes in both the window and body. The team observed evidence that Molotov cocktails had been used against the compound, and there was one building that had burned to the ground and was still smoldering. At 15:00, the team went to the Emergency Medical Hospital. According to its director, five patients were brought to this facility, all with gunshot wounds. He also checked the daily registry for Mariupol and found that on 16 April, a total of 16 people were treated for wounds in various medical facilities. According to the Ministry of Interior and the Mayor, there were three fatalities. The Medical Director confirmed one; however, he could not personally confirm any others as he was only working at the emergency hospital. At around 15:30 the team arrived at Mariupol Airport. Upon approaching the terminal, there appeared to be no more activity than had been seen the day before, with Ukrainian flags flying. However, upon closer observation, four Ukrainian military helicopters were seen parked on the tarmac.
The general situation in Dnepropetrovsk, Kherson and Odessa remained calm and quiet, as assessed by the monitoring teams. On the main roads in the vicinity of Odessa an increasing number of roadblocks were seen as compared to previous days. They were manned by unarmed or armed police, often accompanied by local volunteers supporting a unitary state structure for Ukraine.
The situation continues to be calm in Chernivtsi, Ivano-Frankivsk and Lviv. According to a representative of Lviv’s local Russian community, its situation is “precarious” but far from being dangerous at the moment. He noted an absence of any Russian-speaking pre-schools in the region.
The centre of Kyiv was generally calm, and a regular police presence was observed throughout the day in the city centre. The team observed the behaviour of football fans during the match between Dynamo Kyiv and Shakhtar Donetsk and spoke to a Shakhtar football team security officer, who confirmed that despite the Donetsk team winning in Kyiv and the fans of both teams being arch rivals, there was not a single clash or incident of violence among the fans and, as he put it, “there was a tremendous sense of unity, with ‘Ukraine – One country’ slogans chanted by fans of both teams during the game on a regular basis.