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Latest news from the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) to Ukraine based on information received until 20 May, 18:00 (Kyiv time)
22 May 2014 02:24

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In Luhansk region the situation remained volatile. Two of the Nigerian students detained on 17 May by the “South-Eastern Army” for alleged possession of weapons and drugs are still being held captive (see Daily Reports of 19 and 20 May). According to the spokesperson of “Luhansk People’s Republic Parliament”, they are being interrogated by members of the “South-Eastern Army”. SMM was denied access to the two students.

SMM observed a group of heavily armed uniformed men with St George ribbon insignia entering the rear of the hotel “Druzhba” in Luhansk together with four men in civilian suits. The uniforms appeared similar to “Berkut” and “Speznas” (Special Military) border guards, they were carrying Russian style PKM Machine Guns and AK-74M's. No security incidents were reported.

In Donetsk region the situation remained volatile. Gunfire was heard very close to the “Optima Hotel” by SMM. The immediate direction was unclear, but it appeared to come from a west/south-west direction (the direction of the roadblock on Myra Prospect, close to the SBU building). A series of gunshots were heard. This included both single shot and semi-automatic fire of large calibre, based upon the audible report. At the same time SMM could hear the sound of a helicopter. SMM observed the three security police officers who have for the last few weeks been stationed at the “Optima Hotel”, trying to find shelter behind the trees that line the hotel’s car park. A few minutes later the sounds of the helicopter were heard again. The gunfire also began again and the same scenario of events occurred. This time however SMM was able to clearly identify that not only was gunfire coming from the area of the SBU building, but from the area of the apartment building in front of the “Optima Hotel”. According to SMM these were large calibre weapons being fired at the helicopter. The shooting stopped once the helicopter left the air space around the city centre. SMM did not obtain any information about possible injuries.    

SMM was informed of a rally for peace at the Donbass Arena. SMM observed numerous cars honking their horns in support of Rinat Akhmetov’s call to honk for “peace and against bloodshed”. By the time SMM reached the entrance of the stadium, people were already coming out of the stadium and the crowd was dispersing. There were 4-5 Shakhtar football club buses lined up. The majority of the crowd left on foot. Most of them carried Orange Shakhtar FC flags. The crowd consisted of both men and women aged from 20 to 40.

In Kramatorsk SMM met with the Head of the City Police Department. He wore civilian clothes, and was armed with a pistol. He has been appointed by “Donetsk People’s Republic” and declared that he was not subordinated to the “Donetsk People’s Republic” Ministry of Interior Kovalchuk, but to the “Donetsk People’s Republic” head of Security Council Strelkov. He also informed SMM that 70 per cent of staff remained and 30 per cent, including all commanding staff, have been replaced.

While exiting Volnovakha, SMM passsed through a checkpoint that had previously been manned only by traffic police. The checkpoint had been re-enforced with three BMP-2 with Ukrainian flags. SMM approached the military men who said that nothing extraordinary prompted the enforcement of the post - it was only a security measure.

The situation in Dnepropetrovsk remained calm. SMM had a meeting with the Head of the “HQ of the National Defense”. He defined it as an umbrella organization for 28 civic organizations as well as individuals. The interlocutor also explained that the role of the “HQ of the National Defense” was to forge and develop new ideas. On the upcoming presidential elections, its main concern was to ensure that the process is fair and transparent. He stated that it also acts as a crisis management centre, and that, if needed, it would be able to gather more than 100 people to react to any crisis situation. He stated that soon there would be a meeting of all battalion commanders (including “Dnipr-1”, which is under the Interior Ministry’s control, and three “Territorial Defense” battalions, under the Defence Ministry control).

The situation in Kherson remained calm. SMM had an informal conversation with leading members of the Crimean Tatar community in Henichesk. According to these representatives, the Crimean Tatars Mejlis supported democratic Ukrainian forces. According to them, the Kyiv mufti had been set up to counter the Crimean Tatars mufti. The SMM was informed that  existence of these two muftis was sowing inter-confessional and political discord among Crimean Tatars. The biggest issue for them was the lack of real representation of the Crimean Tatar community on the local, district or regional authorities.

The situation in the cities of Odessa, Chernivitsi and Lviv remained calm.

The situation in Ivano-Frankivsk was calm. SMM met with the Military Commander of Ivano-Frankivsk, who said that the Defence Ministry ordered the Region Commander to establish a new battalion available for protection of some especially sensitive objects in the Region. The battalion is composed of approximately 400 soldiers, all volunteers, he said. The Commander also stated that he had recently met with “Self-Defense” representatives in the city in order to offer them to join the military, which was rejected by the “Self-Defense” leadership.

In Kyiv the situation remained calm. SMM witnessed a small gathering of approximately 50 individuals protesting in front of the Ukrainian Government administration. Another 10 individuals were protesting in front of the Ukrainian Parliament. The protests were against alleged corruption cases within leading structures. All protest actions remained calm and small in size. SMM also observed that “Right Sector” activists had deployed an Armored Personnel Carrier on Khreshchatyk Street in front of “Right Sector” headquarters on Maidan. SMM observed another group of some 100 people who gathered in front of the building of the District Court. They were dressed in camouflage and were holding clubs and shields. SMM was told that the reason for the gathering was a court session related to the custody of a person allegedly belonging to the Maidan group. There was no police or prison guard present there. No security incidents were reported.

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