Latest from the Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine - based on information received up until 24 April 2014, 19:00 (Kyiv time)
This update is provided for the media and the public.
Western and Central Ukraine, including Kiev, as well as many regions of the southern part of the country, were calm. In the regions neighbouring Donbas some tensions continued – they resulted either from the political polarization or fears of possible activities of armed opponents of the government. The situation continued to be tense in Luhansk and, in particular, Donetsk regions.
The Kharkiv team attended a regular session of the Regional Council. The deputies urged the regional legislature to secure the status of Russian as a second state language, and to ban parties advocating neo-Nazism and separatism. The team also monitored two rallies, by pro- and anti-government groups respectively. Whereas supporters of a unitary Ukraine numbered around 50 to 60, the opponents of the current government totalled approximately 200. Approximately 200 police in riot gear were present. Neighbouring metro stations were closed.
The general situation in Luhansk was assessed as tense. The situation around the occupied state security service (SBU) building remained stable, although the team observed further reinforcement of the barricades around the building. The Special Monitoring Mission met with the chairman of the Luhansk Regional Council and the local branch of the Party of Regions. According to him, the Luhansk Regional Council shared the demands of the SBU occupiers for recognizing Russian as a regional language and implementation of decentralization. He insisted that the Luhansk Regional Council did not support separatism.
The overall situation in Donetsk region remained tense. Occupation of state institutions in the city of Donetsk continued. The team confirmed that no offices or floors of the Donetsk Regional Administration building were returned to the government, contrary to what was reported in the press. Additional barricades and roadblocks were found to have been erected on the highways leading north from Donetsk, all of them being manned by unarmed or armed supporters of the “Donetsk People’s Republic”. On the way between Sloviansk and Artemivsk (45 km southeast of Sloviansk) the team saw two roadblocks manned by Ukrainian military personnel, and on the outskirts of Donetsk a roadblock manned by Ukrainian police was encountered. The team observed that two roadblocks in the region, in Makiyivka and in the vicinity of Debaltseve, were being dismantled. According to a member of the Town Council of Debaltseve, this resulted from a lack of volunteers to man the barricades, as people were afraid for their personal safety. The team received information that the occupation of the city administration building in Mariupol continued in spite of press reports to the contrary.
The Dnepropetrovsk team met with a representative of the pro- government National Defence organization who confirmed that two men had been detained by police and taken to Dnepropetrovsk on suspicion of espionage. The interlocutor was concerned that opponents of a unitary Ukrainian state would become more active during the forthcoming May holidays. According to the mayor of Pavlohrad, 250 members of the National Guard were deployed in the town and to the nearby nuclear power plant to provide security. A local Right Sector activist confirmed that Dmytro Yarosh, its leader, had moved the organization’s headquarters to Dnepropetrovsk.
The general situation remained largely unchanged in Kherson, Mykolaiv, and the surrounding areas. Security arrangements around the strategic hydro-electric power plant and bridge at Nova Kakhovka (76 km east of Kherson) have been increased. The team visited again the main floodgate of the North Crimean Canal. The situation was calm and the level of security unchanged. The team approached the police checkpoint at the hydroelectric power plant at Nova Kahkovka and observed that the military had been posted to reinforce the police. The Special Monitoring Mission also visited the synagogue in the town of Mykolaiv, following the attempted arson attack by an unknown person that had occurred two days earlier. There were signs of burning at its main doors and one window.
In Odessa the situation remained relatively calm. The Special Monitoring Mission visited three roadside checkpoints west of Odessa: in Ovidiopol, at “7th Kilometre” and “2-Stolba”. The checkpoints around Odessa are now licensed by the Odessa Regional Administration, and those checkpoints observed by the team were manned by activists supporting a unitary Ukrainian state and by the police. Police presence around the checkpoints had increased in recent days. According to an interlocutor from Vopniarka (20 km northeast of Odessa), an unidentified group attempted to set up a checkpoint on the road leading to the dam across the Great Adzhalyk Estuary. After two hours of negotiations, the people trying to set up the checkpoint were convinced by the police and local population to leave.
The situation in Chernivtsi was calm. The team observed a bridge in Storozhinets (25 km southwest of Chernivtsi) and war memorials in several villages of the region – flying both Ukrainian national and red-and-black Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) flags.
The situation in Lviv and Ivano-Frankivsk was calm. The Lviv team was informed by high-ranking representatives of the local police that there is a risk of provocations in the period between 27 April and 9 May – during the May holiday period many tourists are expected to visit Western Ukraine. Victory Day, on 9 May, was a matter of particular concern, due to tensions between opponents and supporters of the celebration of this holiday.
In Kyiv the situation was calm, and the process of removing the barricades around Maidan square continued.