Human rights activists have stressed the need for legislative regulation of the rights of all civilians affected by the conflict in eastern Ukraine. The head of the board of the Luhansk regional human rights center “Alternative”, Valeriy Novikov, said at a briefing in Kyiv on Monday that servicemen injured as a result of hostilities in Donbas were very carefully counted, but civilians are not taken into account. “Many who were in captivity and were illegally detained by illegal armed groups have injuries and disabilities. They need help from the state in regulating their status. Today it can be said that at the legislative level the status of civilians affected by the conflict is not regulated. There is no law on compensation or social protection for such people”, he said at a briefing in Kyiv on Monday.
Russia will reconsider its position on Donbas when it comes to the conclusion that occupation of Ukraine’s territory is no longer in its interests, but so far Moscow continues to deny its direct involvement in the conflict in eastern Ukraine, U.S. Special Representative for Ukraine Negotiations Kurt Volker has said. The Minsk agreements are very important. Firstly, they are a tool confirming Russia’s adherence to the restoration of sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine. This is very important. The reintegration of these territories into Ukraine – and this is part of the Minsk agreements – should become the basis of a Security Council resolution. Secondly, the Minsk agreements have all elements needed for this – a ceasefire, withdrawal of heavy weapons, local elections, amnesty for those who took part in the military conflict, and a special status for eastern Ukraine, which must be secured in the Constitution of Ukraine, Volker said in an interview with Germany’s international broadcaster Deutsche Welle, which was released on Wednesday, January 24.
Belgrade-based sleuth journalist from Serbia’s Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN) Marija Ristic has probed into the reasons why mercenaries from Serbia have been taking part in the war waged by Russia against Ukraine in Donbas. “The most prominent case was against Radomir Pocuca, a former special police spokesperson, who over several months of fighting in Ukraine posted almost daily videos, photos and other entries related to his time in Donetsk. Pocuca also claimed that he went to help Serbia’s ‘Russian brothers’ for patriotic reasons, mainly as payback for Russia’s support for Serbia in the dispute over the former province of Kosovo [which declared independence in 2008 – which Serbia has vowed never to recognize]”, she wrote in the article titled “Facebook Reveals Serbian Fighters’ Role in Ukraine War”, posted by BalkanInsight on December 27. Serbs are said to remember that Russian fighters volunteered for the Serbian side in the 1992-5 war in Bosnia, which pitched Serbs against a combination of Croats and Bosniaks [Bosnian Muslims].
Eighty-five civilians, including an OSCE representative, have been killed in the conflict in eastern Ukraine since the beginning of 2017, according to the latest data from the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission
OSCE SMM Principal Deputy Chief Monitor Alexander Hug said this at a briefing in Kyiv on Friday, Ukrinform correspondent reports.
“I would like to take this opportunity to reflect also on the victims of the conflict. This year so far, the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission has confirmed the death of 85 people and the injury of 384. Among them was a colleague of ours, Joseph Stone, killed by what probably was an anti-tank mine near Pryshyb on April 23,” Hug said. According to him, while the conflict raged in eastern Ukraine in 2017, observers see the willingness and ability to make things better to improve the lives of the civilian population.
The Ukrainian side will continue its work at the Joint Centre for Control and Coordination of Ceasefire in Donbas, but will have to withdraw its monitors from the occupied territory, deputy spokesman for Ukraine’s Armed Forces Yuzef Venskovych said.
The official noted that the Russian Federation’s statements about the alleged disrespectful attitude of Ukrainian servicemen toward their Russian counterparts at the JCCC are untrue: “These insinuations do not correspond to reality, those on the allegedly disrespectful attitude, and so on.” Venskovych has stressed the fact that the Ukrainian side continues and will continue to fulfill its responsibilities in accordance with the responsibilities assigned to JCCC in the framework of the implementation of Minsk agreements. “Meanwhile, this will certainly complicate the activities of the Joint Centre, since there will be no representatives on the other side if they withdraw their military personnel … If Russian officers withdraw from the JCCC, the Ukrainian Armed Forces are forced to pull back from the occupied territories its monitors who were acting there on behalf of the JCCC to the territory controlled by Ukraine due to the fact that their safety will not be ensured,” said Venskovych.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin during a meeting with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in New York focused on the prospects for a UN peacekeeping mission in Donbas.
The spokesman for Ukraine’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations Oleh Nikolenko said this to an Ukrinform correspondent. “Pavlo Klimkin discussed with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres the prospects for the introduction of a UN peacekeeping mission in the east of Ukraine, protection of human rights in the temporarily occupied Crimea, humanitarian cooperation, including the release of Ukrainian political prisoners and hostages from Russian captivity”, the Ukrainian diplomat said. He also said that the head of the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry handed over to the UN secretary-general an open letter on behalf of the association of relatives of political prisoners of the Kremlin, and the human rights and public organizations of Ukraine.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has said there is no Russian army in Donbas, but recognizes the creation of “certain military, militia” formations, according to an UNIAN correspondent “There is no Russian army on the territory of Donbas, but there have actually been established certain military, militia formations that are self-sufficient and ready to repel any large-scale military actions against Donbas,” he said at an annual press conference December 14. At the same time, Putin claims that the creation of such formations corresponds to the interests of people living in the temporarily occupied territories.
“Because if they do not have such an opportunity there, the ‘massacre’, even worse than in Srebrenica, will be carried out by the so-called nationalist battalions, and nothing will stop them, including an appeal, as I was advised by some Western colleagues, to international human rights organizations,” Putin said.
The Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Netherlands has recorded more than 1,200 incidents involving crimes allegedly committed in Donbas. This is stated in the annual Report on Preliminary Examination Activity, issued by the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Fatou Bensouda. “The Office has recorded more than 1,200 incidents involving crimes allegedly committed since 20 February 2014 in the context of events in eastern Ukraine”, the document says. The Office of the Prosecutor reports that some 10,225 people have been killed and 24,541 injured since the start of the conflict. In particular, at least 2,505 civilians were allegedly killed in armed hostilities between April 2014 and August 2017. In addition, official statistics suggest that more than 15,000 persons have been reported as “missing” in the conflict zone since April 2014. Torture or ill-treatment was reportedly perpetrated in the context of the conflict, involving several hundred alleged victims.
Russia’s hybrid military forces attacked Ukrainian army positions in Donbas 38 times in the past 24 hours, with one Ukrainian soldier reported as killed in action (KIA) and another four as wounded in action (WIA), according to the press center of the Ukrainian Anti-Terrorist Operation (ATO) Headquarters. “The Russian occupation forces more often shell the Ukrainian positions from weapons that should have been withdrawn from the contact line, including tanks,” the ATO HQ said on Facebook on Monday, December 4. Read also Russian proxies attack Ukraine 19 times on Dec 3 – ATO HQ In the Luhansk sector, the enemy was active near the villages of Troyitske and Luhanske after dark. Here, the militants used 120mm mortars. In addition, the invaders repeatedly fired grenade launchers and small arms to attack ATO positions near the town of Zolote, and the villages of Novo-Oleksandrivka, Zhovte and Krymske.
U.S. Ambassador Kurt Volker, the Trump administration’s special envoy charged with ending the war in Ukraine, says that his recent meeting with Vladislav Surkov, an aide to Russian President Vladimir Putin, in Belgrade on November 13 on a UN peacekeeping mission in Donbas, was a “step back,” according to the U.S. edition of the POLITICO magazine. “Our third meeting was a step back,” Volker told POLITICO. “They went back to their original proposal again. I don’t know what the next step after this is. It could be that that happened for completely other reasons having nothing to do with Ukraine, just where we are in our U.S.-Russian relationship. It could have had to do with the lack of a bilateral meeting between President Putin and President Trump.” Volker recalled that Moscow had proposed deploying a UN mission to protect OSCE monitors in Donbas. Washington, in turn, said that peacekeepers should monitor the ceasefire throughout the entire area – from the contact line to the Ukrainian-Russian border stretch between Russia and the self-proclaimed republics.