Latest news from the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) to Ukraine based on information received until 25 May, 18:00 (Kyiv time)

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The situation in Donbas remained tense, but unchanged comparedto previous days.Public security and safety continue to be a concern in Donetsk city. The elections did not take place in much of Luhansk and Donetsk regions. Other parts of the country were calm and the elections passed peacefully.

In Kharkiv two rallies were held over the weekend. The first, which gathered some 500 people, was to commemorate the death of Ukrainian soldiers in the anti-terrorist operation in Donetsk and Luhansk; and the other, which gathered about 300,called for Kharkiv to have stronger ties with the Russian Federation and demanded a referendum on autonomy. Russian, Soviet and South-Ossetian flags were seen among the demonstrators.

Despite the imposition of‘martial law’ by theso-called ‘Luhansk People’s Republic’, no unusual military activity was observed in Luhansk during the weekend. A number of shops and restaurants were closed. At approximately 10 am, threeSpecial Monitoring Mission (SMM) cars were stopped at the Ukrainian army checkpoint in the vicinity of Starobilsk (96 km north of Luhansk). The soldiers asked one of the drivers to step out and open the trunk. They were on high alert, with their fingers on the trigger.While an SMM member was opening the trunk, a round was shot in an unknown direction by one of the soldiers standing by the cars.

In Donetsk the SMM observed on 25 May at 13:00 a crowd of around 3000 to 4000 people in the city centre with the flags of Russia and the ‘Donetsk People’s Republic’, shouting ‘Russia, Russia’, ‘Donbas, Donbas’ or‘down with fascism’. Shots were fired in the air with AK-47s as a salute after Denis Pushilin’s speech.

A source in the Donetsk regional administration informed theSMM that on 25 May about 40 armed people in camouflage had arrived at the Hotel Victoria, used temporarily as an office by the Donetsk region governor, and threatened someten officials present in the hotel with death if they continued to workthere.

Separatists in Torez (69 km east of Donetsk) told the SMM on 24 May that, during their co-ordination meeting, which was heldthe day before in the city hall, five armed and masked men had broken into the city hall’s rooms, singled out two attendees from Shakhtarsk, shot them at point-blank range and subsequently left the scene. They said that one of the victims had died on the spot, and that the other sustained grave injuries and was currently in hospital undergoing surgery.

The situation in Dnepropetrovsk, Kherson and Odessa was calm. A rally of opponents of Ukraine’s unity at Kulikove Pole gathered 300 people. They demanded the transformation of Ukraine into a federal state through peaceful means. Ten to 15 police were present with four buses of riot police standing by at the rear.

The situation in Chernivtsi, Ivano-Frankivsk, Lviv and Kyiv was calm. Representatives of groups present onMaidansquare reported to the SMM that many young activists have been recruited into voluntary battalions to fight in the east of the country. Several activists,recently returned to Kyiv, claimed, however,that they were neither given proper training before being deployed nor were they provided with adequate equipment or meals.

The SMM met on 24 May in Kyiv with the lawyers of two Russian journalists who were reportedly detained by Ukrainian forces on 18 May close to Kramatorsk. The interlocutors informed the SMM that they had neither been able to contact their clients nor receive information on their whereabouts. On 25 May the SMM received information from the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights that the two journalists had been released.

Michael Bociurkiw
Press Officer
OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine
26 Turgenevska Street
01054 Kyiv
Mobile: +38 067 4083107