Latest from OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (SMM) based on information received as of 18:00hrs, 30 July 2014 (Kyiv time)
This update is provided for media and general public.
As of 30 July, the SMM support group dealing with MH17 was unable to access the crash-site for the fourth day in succession owing to fighting and security concerns - the last visit was Friday 25 July. [Note – the SMM successfully reached the crash site today 31 July]. The SMM monitored the evacuation of civilians via the “Green Corridor” in Luhansk region.
In Barinkove (120km south of Kharkiv city), the SMM was told by the head of the district police that on 29 July there had been an unsuccessful attempt to blow up a bridge over the Dnipro-Donbas canal, between Hrushevakha village (140km south of Kharkiv city) and Petrivka village (110km southwest of Kharkiv city).
SMM interlocutors in the district administration (Health Department), and law enforcement officers in Kupiansk (120km southeast of Kharkiv city), corroborated previously obtained information that 61 children from Luhansk had been admitted to Kupiansk hospital on 30 July. All were under the age of four. After a pediatric check, they were taken to Kharkiv city. A representative from the District Administration reported that no major health issues had been detected.
A senior police officer informed the SMM that a 26-vehicle convoy had come from Luhansk city, through the Ukrainian military checkpoint south of Shchastya, 25km north-west of the city. He said the people had left the city without the agreement of the so-called “Luhansk People’s Republic” (“LPR”), apparently because of communication difficulties. He informed the SMM that an informal arrangement exists between the “LPR” and Ukrainian security forces, whereby both sides co-ordinate when people are leaving Luhansk city. This so-called “Green Corridor” has been previously agreed, and is designed to minimise risks to civilians fleeing the fighting in and around the city. At the Ukrainian checkpoint, the SMM observed 20 civilian cars, each clearly marked with pieces of white cloth. Cars with children were marked with white letters on the front and back windows bearing the word “children” in Russian. The convoy was escorted by police to Shchastya. There, all the passengers in the vehicles were photographed by the Ukrainian authorities and had their ID papers checked. Men had their fingerprints taken, and their names checked against criminal records. Some were interviewed in nearby offices. Nobody was detained.
The SMM went to Lysychansk (90km north of Luhansk) and met the acting mayor and the acting first secretary of the city council. The interlocutors said the city was without both electricity and water, but the regional administration was providing bottled water to the inhabitants. They also said that municipal staff were undertaking a needs-assessment, identifying buildings in need of repair. They said funding delays might mean such work would not be completed before winter.
The SMM met the acting mayor of Rubizhne (110km northwest of Luhansk city), who stated that banks faced a severe shortage of cash. He said that, sometimes, before the city was re-taken by Ukrainian forces, pension and salary payments had not been made due to the conflict. Since then, direct payments from Kyiv have been made consistently. According to the interlocutor, approximately 13,000 of the city’s 60,000 residents had fled the city while it had been under “LPR” control.
On 30 July, the SMM support group in Donetsk attempted, for the fourth day in succession since the last successful visit on Friday 25 July, to access the MH17 crash site in Hrabove via a northern route (Yasenovata – Yenakievo – Debaltseve), using the E50 as the access road. Fighting was reported at 08:00hrs to be occurring astride this route in the northeastern outskirts of Donetsk in the vicinity of Yasenovata, 25km northeast of Donetsk. The team, comprising six OSCE staff members, and a representative from each of the Netherlands and Australian contingents, in two OSCE armoured vehicles, approached the area after a short delay. The SMM in Kyiv then made the decision, in full conjunction with the Netherlands and Australian delegations, and after four days of attempting to find a secure route to the crash site against a backdrop of continuing armed exchanges and mounting security concerns, that the team should return to Donetsk.
At the same time, discussions about next steps occurred in Kyiv. Following these discussions, which took place (a) internally in Kyiv between the SMM and Dutch and Australian representatives, (b) with the acting Prime Minister and Defence Minister of Ukraine, and (c) between SMM Donetsk and the so-called “DPR” representatives, a detailed plan was agreed to access the site on a new, more northerly road via Artemisk (70km north of Donetsk).
COMMENT: The SMM's last visit to the crash site was Friday 25 July. The SMM was unable subsequently to access the area because of ongoing fighting and military operations. The President of Ukraine announced a unilateral ceasefire 29 July within a 20km radius of the site, and the SMM has played an active role in discussions at all levels in attempting to establish a safe and workable route. The SMM appreciate the receptiveness of all its interlocutors - and the support of the wider international community - in trying to establish this access, which, together with a safe and secure environment, is a pre-requisite for concluding a full, thorough and independent investigation. [Note: An SMM team, together with Netherlands and Australian representatives successfully reached the crash site today, 31 July – this visit will be reported upon 1 August].
The SMM heard shelling throughout the day, apparently in the outskirts of Donetsk city. In the early hours of 30 July, the SMM heard what it assessed to be a convoy of tracked vehicles in Donetsk city.
The situation in Dnepropetrovsk, Kherson and Odessa was calm.
In Dnepropetrovsk the SMM met a member of a Russian cultural organisation, whose aim is to ‘support the maintenance of Russian culture’. He insisted that his members were Ukrainians, and not Russians. The organisation, he said, was focused on defending monuments, buildings and historical sites. He condemned the demolition of the Lenin statue in Dnipropetrovsk city and the proposed changing of 200 Soviet-era street names, saying that the statue and the street names were part of the history and identity of the city.
In Odessa the SMM met members of a military patriotic club called “Paratrooper” in Artsyz (175km southwest of Odessa) who explained that the main purpose of the NGO is to train children aged from 5 to 17 years in military skills, to be able to protect their families and the motherland, and keep the children away from alcohol and drugs. The SMM saw 20 children disassemble and assemble an AK47, knife throwing, air-rifle shooting and running a short obstacle course.
The situation in Chernivtsi and Ivano-Frankivsk remained calm.
In Lviv city the SMM met with the City Prosecutor, who said there had been 41 hoax bomb threats in the city in the past four months, 25 of which were in July. Police investigations, he said had revealed that the majority of the threats in July had come from areas in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.
In Kyiv the situation remained calm.