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Latest news from the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (SMM), based on information received until 18:00 hrs, 15 June (Kyiv time)
17 June 2014 02:07

The situation across the country was calm, except parts of Donbas where tensions remained. On 14 June a Ukrainian military transport aircraft was shot down while approaching Luhansk airport. Forty-nine Ukrainian soldiers lost their lives. The SMM has not reestablished communication with the four monitors from the Donetsk team and four monitors from the Luhansk team with whom it lost contact on 26 May and 29 May respectively.

In Kharkiv the situation remained calm. On June 14 the SMM took part in the meeting in Kharkiv of Ukrainian and Russian Ombudspersons along with various prominent representatives of Ukrainian and Russian civil society. With support from the Ombudspersons, participants agreed to set up a joint human rights mission to facilitate de-escalation in the southeast of Ukraine (Donbas). The participants appealed for “the immediate and unconditional release of all unlawfully detained civilians”. They also called for “a safe exit for peaceful civilians from the areas of military conflict”.

In southern parts of the Luhansk region, the situation remained tense. On 14 June armed groups shot down a Ukrainian military transport plane as it approached Luhansk airport. Forty soldiers believed to be from the Dnipropetrovsk 25th battalion, plus nine crew, were killed. In a press conference held on 15 June, Valeriy Bolotov, the ‘people’s governor’ of the so-called ‘Luhansk People’s Republic’, claimed that the ‘South Eastern Army’ was responsible for the shooting down of the plane.

Donetsk city remained quiet, with traffic and pedestrians noticeably more scarce than usual. Events in Luhansk and Mariupol, and the reported movement of two Ukrainian tanks, together with troops (in Krasnoarmiysk, 50 kilometres northwest of Donetsk), towards the city fuelled a sense of tension and uncertainty.

'Mayor' Pavlenko told the SMM that the city of Sloviansk was mortared again on 14 June at about 12:30 hrs. The SMM also spoke to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), who visited the town from the north and confirmed water and electricity shortages. The fighting between Government forces and their armed opponents near Semenivka (five kilometres southeast of Sloviansk in the Donetsk region) has caused damage to Donetsk city water supply, with potentially serious consequences for its one million inhabitants and three million others (see Spot Report 15 June 2014).

The situation in Dnipropetrovsk, Kherson, Odesa, Chernivtsi, Ivano-Frankivsk, Lviv and Kyiv remained calm.

In Odesa the SMM observed a memorial service conducted by groups supporting Ukraine’s unity, including Odesa Euromaidan and ‘Right Sector’ supporters, by the Duke Richelieu statue. Most of the flags were Ukrainian national flags but there were at least two ‘Right Sector’ flags. The group behaved peacefully throughout. They held a service and laid flowers and prayed both for the victims of 2 May in Odesa but also for the 49 Ukrainian soldiers killed in the transport plane shot down near Luhansk on 14 June. One speaker mentioned the possibility of action against the Russian Consulate in Odesa. The service and meeting ended at 20:30. The SMM observed a large police presence both in the run-up to and during the meeting, with both riot police and ordinary police standing by in at least 10 minibuses.

In Ivano-Frankivsk the SMM monitored, on 14 June, a small group of around 50 activists of the ‘Right Sector’ and ‘Tryzub’ organisation in order to mark the birthday of Yevhen Konovalets (the first leader of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists). ‘Tryzub’ is a far-right Ukrainian paramilitary organisation founded in 1993 by the Congress of Ukrainian Nationalists. Its full name is the ‘Stepan Bandera All-Ukrainian Organisation Tryzub’ and it merged with other groups into the ‘Right Sector’. It was notable that some very young activists (about 15-years-old) were wearing ‘Tryzub armbands’. The venue was decorated with flags of the ‘Right Sector’ and ‘Tryzub’ and displayed biographic information about Yevhen Konovalets.

The SMM in Lviv went to Pustomyty (20 kilometres southwest of Lviv) and met with the mayor and local Maidan representatives. Both the mayor and local Maidan representatives put emphasis on the need for administrative reforms, especially decentralisation. The Maidan representatives criticized law enforcement agencies stressing that they are the main stumbling block to any reforms due to corruption. According to the Maidan activists, if the President and Government fail to launch true reforms, a new wave of protests, much stronger than the previous one, seem to be inevitable.

In Kyiv the SMM observed, on 14 June at 16:50 in front of the Russian Embassy, approximately 150 people who protested against the shooting down of a Ukrainian military aircraft in Luhansk. Security forces were at the spot and several police officers were seen patrolling in the vicinity of the gate of the Embassy. The SMM observed police monitoring the situation. A red and black flag was attached to the entrance gate of the Embassy. After 17:30 the number of participants grew slowly and reached around 250, including bystanders. The demonstration became more aggressive and turned into an attack on the Embassy, when people started pulling down Russian flags and overturned four parked vehicles in front of the Embassy. The number of activists kept growing throughout the evening and additionally people in camouflage and hoods arrived.

The SMM observed also approximately 20 Crimean Tatars who held a peaceful demonstration in front of the Russian Embassy. About 10 regular police officers secured the gathering. Some media were present, interviewing demonstrators.

The SMM observed at Maidan a people’s gathering which took place on 15 June. The event lasted approximately 1.5 hours and gathered around 2,000 participants. Around 15 masked military troops of the ‘Azov’ Battalion lined up in front of the central stage. The activists called for parliamentary and local elections and demanded that lustration be carried out by the Maidan itself. On 17 June, at 09.00, the activists will gather by the Verkhovna Rada to reiterate their call for early elections.

The SMM observed the removal of barricades from the ‘European Square’ end and the installment of concrete blocks by the Labour Union building by the Kyiv City administration at the corner of the square. The physical presence of activists continued to decrease on the Maidan, with the visible shrinking of the ‘tent city’ on the square and its immediate vicinity.

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