VIENNA, 8 December 2017 – The OSCE Austrian Chairmanship appealed for greater attention to the plight of civilians in Eastern Ukraine at a side event held on the margins of the 24th OSCE Ministerial Council in Vienna today.
The focused discussion, led by Austrian Deputy Foreign Minister Michael Linhart, underlined the dire situation of civilians in Eastern Ukraine. Special attention was paid to the damage to critical infrastructure, deteriorating socio-economic conditions and health care provisions in the region, and the danger, especially to children, of mines and explosive remnants of war.
“The images look like they are from somewhere far away and long ago, but this is Europe in 2017”, said Linhart at the opening of the event.
Since the beginning of the crisis, more than 10,000 people have been killed, including over 2800 civilians. Currently, over 3.8 million people are in direct need of humanitarian aid. Thousands of people are cut off from electricity, gas and water whilst the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (SMM) reports on more damage to civilian properties every day. There are long delays in passing through entry and exit points around the contact line, with elderly and families with children often having to wait for hours to cross. Children are traumatized, especially by shelling close to their schools.
Ertugrul Apakan, Chief Monitor to the SMM, added: “Civilians living near the contact line deal with violence on a daily basis. This is the fourth winter civilians must endure this and all sides in the crisis should implement measures to ease the situation. It must stop.”
Linhart also warned about the potential ecological disaster caused by shelling of critical infrastructure. Several times this year, shells have landed just a few metres away from buildings where hundreds of kilograms of chlorine are stored. "The consequences of such an impact would be devastating," warned Linhart. The call to create safety zones around such installations was endorsed by all speakers.
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