Tag Archives: Donetsk

Ukraine Today: Human rights abuses by Kremlin-backed militants #humanrights

 Ukraine Today.Pro-Russian gunmen guard parade dozens of captured Ukrainian soldiers during a march in mockery of the country's Independence Day celebrations in the main separatist stronghold Donetsk on Aug. 24, 2014.Pro-Russian gunmen guard parade dozens of captured Ukrainian soldiers during a march in mockery of the country’s Independence Day celebrations in the main separatist stronghold Donetsk on Aug. 24, 2014. © AFP

A woman was wrapped in a Ukrainian flag and forced to stand on the side of the road holding a sign reading “she kills children” by insurgent forces.

A gunman wrapped a woman in a Ukrainian flag, passers-by slap her face and throw tomatoes at her in Donetsk. 


Kyiv Post.

#ElectionCommission Crimea, Donetsk and Luhansk to vote in parliamentary elections

By Oleg Naumenko.Head of Ukraine's Central Election Commission Mykhaylo Okhendovsky. © AFPHead of Ukraine’s Central Election Commission Mykhaylo Okhendovsky. © AFP

Mykhaylo Okhendovsky, head of Ukraine’s Central Election Commission, says it’s important to provide an opportunity to vote for Ukrainian citizens living in Crimea, as well as in war-torn Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, during the Oct. 26 parliamentary election. These troubled regions are home to 20 percent of Ukraine’s 45 million people.

“These elections are the first of its kind in our history,” Okhendovsky said during an Aug. 26 news briefing. “Previous early elections happened in 2007 under a proportional system, whereas currently we have a mixed system whereby 225 lawmakers will be elected according to the party lists and another 213 MPs – from their constituencies. Once the president signs a decree that officially dissolves the parliament, there will be 60 days for the election campaign.”

Ukraine used to have 225 deputies from the constituencies, but since Crimea and Sevastopol had as many as 12, the figure has been changed. However, this year’s elections will not happen there due to the peculiar status of the region outlined in the law “on the temporarily occupied territories” that came into effect on May 14.

“Residents of Crimea will be able to vote in a different region of Ukraine, just as 117,000 of the Crimeans did during the presidential elections in May,” Okhendovsky explained.

He promised to put all the election commission’s efforts in organizing the elections in Donbas. “But we also need to ensure safety of the voters and all the members of local commissions and observers,” Okhendovsky added.

Although parts of Donetsk and Luhansk regions are controlled by the Russia-backed insurgents, andmore than 2,000 people have been killed since mid-April in the war, the results of elections will be legitimate as long as at least one polling station will work in every constituency.

Price of elections

This year’s state budget has not allocated money for the election, which is why Hr 986 million will come from a reserve fund.

“However, David Zhvania, a non-affiliated MP, proposed a bill that can save up to Hr 140 million by cutting on expenditures on media, agitation and other electoral documentation. If the parliament passes this bill, we can significantly reduce the costs of elections,” emphasized Okhendovsky.

When being asked whether the separatists and rebel may participate in the elections as candidates, Okhendovsky said: “We do not give any comments on personalized issues. But if Ukrainian courts criminally prosecute such individuals, they will not take part in the elections according to the Ukrainian legislation.”

(Kyiv Post staff writer Oleg Naumenko can be reached at legasy@me.com).

Kyiv Post.

Ukraine troops battle Russian armoured column, claims Kiev #Mariupol

Russia plays down hopes for breakthrough at Minsk talks as tensions rise with plans to send second aid convoy into Ukraine. 

By Agence France-Presse in Donetsk. Rebels parade captured soldiers in Donetsk while Kiev marked Ukraine’s independence day. Photograph: Xinhua /Landov/Barcroft MediaRebels parade captured soldiers in Donetsk while Kiev marked Ukraine’s independence day. Photograph: Xinhua /Landov/Barcroft Media.

Ukraine’s government has said its forces have clashed with an armoured column that crossed the border from Russia as Moscow ramped up tensions ahead of crunch talks by pledging to send in a new ‘aid’ convoy.

The Ukrainian president, Petro Poroshenko, and the Russian leader, Vladimir Putin, are under pressure to defuse the crisis when they meet for the first time in months alongside top EU officials in Minsk on Tuesday.

A Ukrainian military spokesman told AFP border guards were battling “several dozen” armoured vehicles that crossed the border and headed in the direction of the government-held city of Mariupol.

The Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, dismissed the report as disinformation by Ukrainian and western media, telling a Moscow news conference: “I haven’t heard about it, but there has been more than enough disinformation about our invasion. No doubt some foreign newspaper will print that ‘news’ tomorrow.”

If confirmed, the incursion could represent a dangerous push into territory in the Donetsk region under Ukrainian control after a brutal offensive by Kiev had led to government forces pinning back insurgents.

A rebel chief on Sunday announced a counter-offensive to the south of the main rebel stronghold of Donetsk and claimed to have deployed fresh tanks and artillery.

AFP journalists witnessed heavy fighting to the south ofDonetsk with the sound of explosions ringing out and smoke rising from towns to the south.

While fighting raged on the ground, Moscow ratcheted up the pressure further by saying it would send another aid convoy into eastern Ukraine.

Russia last week sent more than 200 lorries filled with what it said was aid to the rebel stronghold of Lugansk in a move characterised by Kiev as a “direct invasion”.

Lavrov announced that Russia wanted to send a new convoy this week and had appealed to Kiev to help facilitate the delivery after the first batch of lorries returned on Saturday.

Kiev and the west fear that the aid initiative could be a gambit to bolster the ailing insurgency or be used by Moscow as a pretext to invade, but Russia insists it just wants to help the stricken region.

More than 400,000 people have fled the fighting since April and residents in some rebel-held cities have been without water or power for weeks.

The upcoming meeting between Poroshenko and Putin has been seen as a rare opportunity to de-escalate tensions more than four months of fighting that has cost more than 2,200 lives.

Poroshenko has pledged to “talk peace” with the Russian president but insists the withdrawal of pro-Kremlin forces is the only way to end the conflict in eastern Ukraine.

Kiev has accused Russia of increasing arms supplies to the rebels as government troops cut deeper into their territory while Moscow has demanded Ukrainian forces cease their offensive.

Lavrov played down hopes for a major breakthrough in Minsk by saying only that the talks would “facilitate the exchange of opinions about the situation concerning efforts to start the political process to settle the political crisis”.

International pressure is high on both sides to compromise as the crisis has sent east-west tensions soaring to their highest point since the end of the cold war.

The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, called for a bilateral ceasefire and tighter border controls during a visit to Kiev at the weekend while stressing support for Ukraine’s territorial integrity.

She said later in an interview she wanted to find a way out of the crisis “that doesn’t harm Russia” with the EU and US already having slapped the harshest economic sanctions on Moscow since the collapse of communism.

Passions rose further on Sunday after rebels paraded dozens of captured soldiers in front of an angry crowd in the centre of Donetsk in an event timed to undermine a military parade taking place in Kiev to mark Ukraine’s independence day.

Kiev’s defence minister, Valeriy Geletey, criticised the rebels for failing to respect “the laws of war and humanity”.

“This is a challenge not just to Ukrainian society but to the world.”

Lavrov stirred controversy further by saying that he “didn’t see anything close to what could be considered as humiliating” in images of the parade.

Speaking to a crowd of thousands at the independence day celebrations in Kiev on Sunday, Poroshenko decried Russian “aggression” and said he was “convinced that the battle for Ukraine, for independence, will be our success”.

The Guardian.

Shameful march of prisoners in Kremlin’s dirty war #khpg

Halya CoynashHalya Coynash

As feared, the Kremlin-backed militants demonstrated their contempt for human dignity and international law on Ukraine’s Independence Day by forcing around 50 captured soldiers to walk through a corridor of armed militants.  According to a Reuters correspondent, bottles and other things were thrown at them and there were shouts of “on your knees” and “fascist”.  Street-cleaning machines were then brought in as though the streets had been ‘sullied’ by the prisoners.

All of this corresponded to the stunt announced earlier on social networks and was intended to imitate an event in Moscow in July 1944 when thousands of German prisoners of war were marched through the streets, unwashed and many in only their underwear.

The difference was not only in the numbers.  The Ukrainian soldiers were taken prisoner while defending their country from militants of whom a large number are Russian nationals and all of whom are heavily armed by Moscow.  It is the war that is dirty, and those using proxies to wage it, not soldiers serving their country.

The militants could have increased the number of captives they marched through the centre very easily since they are holding large numbers of innocent civilians hostage.  Many of those finally released have given harrowing stories of the torture they were subjected to.  The same militants from the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic are known to have committed many murders, including those of four members of an evangelical church, 19-year-old Yury Popravko, 25-year-old Yury Diakovsky and Horlivka deputy Volodymyr Rybak.  In the last few days it was reported that Lithuania’s Honorary Consul for the Luhansk oblast Mykola Zelenets was abducted and murdered.

The militants presumably thought that a display of captured soldiers would go down better. It certainly got them publicity with the papers full of photos and Russian media euphorically broadcasting video footage.

Such treatment of prisoners is in flagrant violation of the 1949 Geneva Convention on treatment of prisoners of war.  The whole performance demonstrated the depths to which those made drunk with illusions of power from Kremlin-provided arms and ammunition have fallen.

No photos – only shame and disgust

Halya Coynash

Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group.

Terror in Their Eyes: Captivity in War-Torn Donetsk #UnitedForUkraine

Armed pro-Russian separatists (right) escort a column of Ukrainian prisoners of war as they walk across the center of Donetsk on Aug. 24.Armed pro-Russian separatists (right) escort a column of Ukrainian prisoners of war as they walk across the center of Donetsk on Aug. 24.

Several dozen people have gathered by the reinforced checkpoint at the entrance to the rebel-occupied special services (SBU) building here. It is 6 p.m, but the August heat is still stifling. The people, most of them women, wait in silence, their eyes downcast. They are waiting for The List.

“Is this the place where they read the list of captives?” I whisper to three women huddled on a small bench, a few steps away from numerous camouflage-clad guards with Kalashnikov assault rifles. “Have they taken someone from you too?” one of the women, Anna, whispers back.

When I explain that I am here to document illegal detentions, hostage-taking, and other abuses, two of the women jump up and walk away, merging with the crowd, but Anna stays put. “Yes, every night, between 6 and 7, an SBU representative comes out and reads the updated list of those who they’re holding. They took my husband away last night. If he’s being held here his name should be on the list. If not I’ll just keep looking. They have such prisons in several other places around town. Also, they take some of the captives outside Donetsk.”

Anna sighs, staring into space. In a soft monotone, she describes how she got home and found her husband missing and her apartment torn apart. Her neighbors told her that a group of armed men acting on behalf of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) forced their way in, carried out a “search,” took the family computer as well as some valuables, told her husband he was being “arrested,” and drove off with him.

She thinks it is because he expressed some pro-Ukrainian views on social media. But she is even more frightened they might accuse him of being an informer for the Ukrainian army because he “often rode his bicycle to work and they just have this thing about bicycles and there are some unfriendly neighbors who could have reported him to the DNR, simply out of spite….”

It’s 6:30 p.m. already. A DNR representative in rumpled fatigues approaches the gate from inside the yard, and people flatten themselves against the gate and one another, straining to get closer. He unfolds a two-page document, clears his throat and starts reading out names, stumbling over syllables. I count 55 names. “That’s it,” he says. For another few seconds, the crowd is silent, and then the silence is broken by a piercing scream, “I know my son is here! Why is his name not on the list? Why are you holding him? He’s just 18! What did he do?”

Half-burned list of individuals targeted for arrest in the DNRHalf-burned list of individuals targeted for arrest in the DNR.

More questions are fired at the list-reader, who just shrugs and says his job is to read the list, not to provide explanations. He asks the relatives of those on the list, Anna among them, to stay for a few minutes and the rest to go home without making a fuss. He even sounds sympathetic, referring to the “severity of war time,” reassuring the crowd that those on the list are treated well and suggesting that those who aren’t on the list will be found sooner or later.

Some of the relatives who have learned from the list that their loved ones are in detention get no further information except, “If he was detained there must be a reason.” Others learn that their family members were taken away for political reasons. Many learn that their relatives were rounded up simply for violating the curfew — being spotted outside between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. — or walking around drunk. Their punishment is digging trenches at the front line or filling up sandbags at checkpoints for 10 days or several weeks, turning them into forced laborers. Anyone who’s been through insurgent checkpoints around Donetsk has seen them.

When Anna finally walks away from the gate, her face is impassive, her eyes are staring blankly. She says the DNR representative did not have any specific information for her: merely that he husband is “under arrest” and they’re “working on it.” She adds, “I’ll try to pass on a food parcel and some clothing to him tomorrow. They’re saying it’s not allowed but I’ve seen some people do it.”

Sounds of shelling rumble from the outskirts of the city. She nods goodbye, and in the fading evening light her face reminds me of the two nurses I interviewed in a maternity ward several hours earlier. They had been caught in a shelling attack, apparently by Ukrainian forces, earlier this month and could not take shelter because they had to care for three premature newborns hooked up to IVs and oxygen. Their story is in no way similar to Anna’s, but the terror in their eyes is the same.

(Tanya Lokshina is a senior researcher at Human Rights Watch).

The Moscow Times.