Latest news from the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine, based on information received until 18:00 hrs, 16 July
This update is provided for media and general public.
Tensions remained in parts of Donbas. Other areas of Ukraine remained calm. Protesters in front of the Consulate General of the Russian Federation in Lviv demanded the release of a Ukrainian military pilot, who was abducted by armed groups operating in Donbas and is now reportedly in custody in Russia.
Internally displaced persons (IDPs) residing in Kharkiv told the SMM that some families from Sloviansk and other locations recently re-taken by the Ukrainian army would stay in Kharkiv until proper conditions for their return are created. IDPs who have visited Sloviansk in the last ten days, reported a lack of water and electricity, the scarce availability of food and, in some cases, partial damage to their residences, as well as non-operating banks. According to the southern Ukrainian railway branch, up to 3,100 people used the Kharkiv-Lozova-Sloviansk train connection from 9 to 14 July.
The SMM visited the IDP camp in Havrishi (57km west of Kharkiv). Its administrator confirmed that 36 people had left the camp and returned to Sloviansk. He said that another IDP group of almost 70 persons was supposed to return to Sloviansk on 16 July – the SMM observed them packing their belongings and preparing to leave. On the same day, around 65 IDPs from other areas of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions were expected to arrive at the camp, the interlocutor stated.
The SMM met with Andrey Yurov, member of the Council under the Russian President for Civil Society Development and Human Rights. Yurov is also the director of strategic programmes of the Moscow Helsinki Group. He confirmed to the SMM that the Ukrainian-Russian joint working group, created in Kharkiv on 13 June and made up of human rights activists, has started monitoring the human rights situation in Donbas. The group is now operating in Sloviansk.
Tensions in Luhansk and Donetsk regions remained. Throughout the day the SMM heard shelling and artillery fire in the southern area of Luhansk city. The SMM visited Shchastya (24km north of Luhansk city), on the front line between the Ukrainian army and fighters of the so-called ‘Luhansk People’s Republic’ (‘LPR’), in order to monitor a possible evacuation of wounded Ukrainian army soldiers from Luhansk airport. At around 13:30, the ‘speaker of the LPR parliament’ told the SMM that only ‘LPR president’ Bolotov could decide if the evacuation would go ahead. He said he would have to wait for this decision before proceeding.
The Regional IDP Co-ordination Centre in Dnepropetrovsk confirmed the return of 68 IDPs to their homes in Sloviansk and Kramatorsk by bus. Also, around 90 IDPs, currently living in Zaporizhzhia, decided to return home to Sloviansk or Kramatorsk, according to the centre.
The SMM met with IDPs in Zaporizhzhia. According to them, many people, particularly women and children, are eager to leave Donetsk but lack the financial means to do so, and many are unwilling to leave men behind. Those actually leaving use private cars or taxis, since buses are unsafe and train seats are mostly unavailable because of the high demand. They also said that men are often not allowed to leave Donetsk city, and are instead forcibly enrolled in ‘armed forces’ of the so-called ‘Donetsk People’s Republic’ or are obliged to dig trenches.
The SMM met two representatives of the Kherson region’s branch of the ‘Right Sector’ who stated that the branch announced a “mobilization” of their members – around 300 people – who will receive two weeks of training before possible deployment in Donbas. They said that the organization consists mainly of students and people of 18-55 years in age and with a military background. Around 20 per cent of members in the Kherson region’s branch are women, who would serve in Donbas as nurses or kitchen help. They also said that the organization receives funding mainly from small businesses and the Ukrainian diaspora.
The SMM met with the head of the Odessa Regional Department of Education. According to the interlocutor, in the Odessa region there are 863 schools, 596 of which use Ukrainian as the language of instruction, 118 – Russian, five – Romanian/Moldovan. There are also: 130 mixed Ukrainian-Russian schools; eight Moldovan-Ukrainian; three Moldovan-Russian; two Ukrainian-Moldovan-Russian; and one mixed Ukrainian-Russian-Bulgarian school. Ukrainian language lessons are mandatory in all schools. Some nationalities are increasingly demanding education in Ukrainian for their children to improve their opportunities in the labour market and to enhance their overall integration, the interlocutor claimed. Most of the minority schools are located in Odessa city and in the Budzhak – a historic region neighbouring Romania and Moldova.
The situation in Chernivtsi was calm.
Representatives of the Commercial Court of Ivano-Frankivsk informed the SMM that they have not been affected by the increasingly politicized climate in Ukraine. The judges also have not felt intimidated by members of the ‘Right Sector’ or ‘Self-Defence’ in the courtroom.
The SMM in Lviv observed a peaceful rally organized by the youth wing of the ‘Svoboda’ party in front of the Russian Consulate General in Lviv. Approximately 30 protesters demanded the release of Nadiya Savchenko, the Ukrainian military pilot, who was held by armed groups operating in Donbas and then, according to the Ukrainian government, transferred to the Russian Federation. Reportedly she is being kept in custody in Voronezh. The organizers attempted to hand over a written petition for Savchenko's release to the Consul General, but did not succeed. The rally was covered by around 20 journalists and secured by ten policemen.
The SMM in Kyiv attended a press conference given by the deputy head of Ukraine’s president’s administration, who stated that since the beginning of the military operation in the east, Ukrainian security forces have lost 258 personnel. According to him, military groups operating in the Donbas have approximately 6,000 armed individuals.