Vienna, November 2, 2017
Much to our regret, the situation regarding the implementation of the Minsk Agreements is still less than satisfactory. Kiev is not taking any serious steps towards resolving the internal Ukrainian conflict by peaceful means. As a result, the Minsk Package of Measures remains on paper.
What’s more, the authorities are playing up to radical elements who are opposing a political-diplomatic solution to the conflict. The authorities are pursuing a brutal policy of forced Ukrainianisation. On October 14, a monument to Simon Petlyura, who organised pogroms in the early 20th century, as a result of which as many as 200,000 Jews were killed, was unveiled in Vinnitsa.
The SMM has repeatedly reported the attempts by radicals to exert pressure on the authorities. On October 24, a group of Ukrainian nationalists barricaded themselves in a court building, disrupting the trial of a Ukrainian nationalist leader. This is the rule of law Ukrainian style.
Nationalists not only provide support for the punitive operation in the east of the country but also continue to fuel the criminal free-for-all. Radicals themselves – former members of volunteer battalions and their sponsors from the Verkhovna Rada – are falling victim to turf wars. However, all problems in Ukraine are now typically being chalked up to an “external enemy.”
Meanwhile, protests by the country’s non-Ukrainian-speaking population against the new law on education are being ignored. We urge the SMM and the OSCE’s executive agencies not just to keep track of demonstrations against this discriminatory law but also to respond, in keeping with their mandates, to appeals from a civil society that is outraged by this attack against the Russian language, as well as ethnic minority languages. The SMM mandate provides for monitoring the human rights situation, especially ethnic minority rights. The Mission’s efforts in this respect leave much to be desired.
Kiev’s security forces are ratcheting up tensions along the line of contact, ignoring de-escalation efforts. On the night of October 24-25, the SMM recorded over 90 explosions of artillery rounds fired from Ukrainian Armed Forces (UAF)-controlled Svetlodarsk, as a result of which the situation in the area was sharply aggravated. According to monitors, one civilian was killed and two were injured in Trudovskikh, one civilian was injured in Donetsk’s Kuibyshevsky District, buildings were damaged in Dokuchayevsk, Kominternovo and Sakhanka, windows were smashed at a school in Aleksandrovka, and artillery shells exploded on Krutaya Gora. In all those instances, artillery rounds were fired from positions where the UAF are deployed.
The UAF are moving heavy weapons up to the line of contact. According to the SMM, in the past two weeks, 12 MLRS’s, 20 artillery systems, 96 tanks and 40 armoured vehicles were spotted on railway platforms in Artyomovsk; monitors recorded 37 artillery systems in Severodonetsk, Zhelannoye, Ilinka, Tsukurino, Konstantinovka, Luganskoye and Khlebodarovka and eight tanks in Nizhnetyoploye and Schastye. [Ukrainian] security forces are using unmanned aerial vehicles on the line of contact. On October 20, SMM monitors watched a UAV intrude into a militia-controlled territory in the airspace between Zolotoye and Pervomaiskoye, overflow LPR positions and return to base.
One indication of Kiev’s reluctance to move ahead with de-escalation is the UAF’s constant refusal to disengage forces in Stanitsa Luganskaya. On October 21, the SMM recorded shelling attacks within this sector, as a result of which LPR positions were hit by fire originating from a UAF-controlled territory. We hope that Kiev will not disrupt the disengagement that is scheduled for November 4.
The UAF continue to impede the work of the Russian-Ukrainian Joint Centre for Control and Coordination that is an important mechanism for easing tensions and fostering dialogue. A few days ago, a JCCC monitoring group again came under fire in the village of Bezymyannoye. Kiev is opposed to representatives from certain districts in Donetsk and Lugansk regions being stationed at the JCCC headquarters in Soledar.
Kiev is not interested in restoring socio-economic ties with Donbass. The transport blockade has not yet been lifted.
We condemn Kiev’s October 20 provocation at the Zolotoye border crossing for civilians that is due to open soon. The Russian side at the JCCC has repeatedly warned against provocations by the Ukrainian State Border Service – i.e., unilaterally allowing civilians to cross via the Zolotoye point until the exact date of the “reciprocal” opening is coordinated. The Ukrainian side at the JCCC supported the Russian side on this issue at a briefing. However, on October 20, the SMM recorded three such provocations. Ukrainian security forces were informed that preparations were not over yet. The UAF continue to impede completion: In the past week alone, an SMM camera twice recorded shelling attacks from the direction where Ukrainian security forces were deployed – on the night of October 23-24 and on October 28. The actions of government forces look like they are just for show in a situation where Kiev does not allow the bridge in Stanitsa Luganskaya to be repaired and is preventing the opening of the border crossing point in the settlement of Schastye.
Ukrainian security forces continue to impose restrictions on SMM monitors under the pretext of real or perceived mine threat. Sectors near Stanitsa Luganskaya, Bogdanovka, Katerinovka and Schastye have long been completely off limits to monitors. Last week, security forces cordoned off the road to Mironovskoye for the SMM with razor wire and mine danger warning signs. The UAF have repeatedly mined areas that were previously cleared of mines. On October 16, monitors spotted antitank mines near Popasnaya, where a demining operation had been carried out before. On October 28, the SMM reported that right after monitors had passed the de-mined Svetlodarsk-Debaltsevo road, UAF sappers laid antitank mines there again. A detailed analysis of SMM reports shows that the number of restrictions imposed on SMM monitors due to the mine danger on UAF-controlled territories is more than all the restrictions on militia-controlled territories put together.
We urge Kiev finally to start complying with its obligations under the Minsk Package of Measures, primarily its political obligations, which should be synchronised with security elements. This will make it possible to unblock the work of the Contact Group. It is necessary, at last, to commit to paper “Frank-Walter Steinmeier’s formula” that predicates holding elections on enacting the law on the special status of Donbass. The half-measures that have been taken, specifically extending the ineffectual law on the special status of Donbass by another year, are not enough.