Ukraine Update No. 2 : Deterioration of the humanitarian situation in the east | 13 February 2017 [EN/RU/UK]

Situation Report
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  • Fighting somewhat subsided, but the situation remains highly volatile in eastern Ukraine. Civilian casualties and damage to infrastructure continue to be reported.

  • Government and humanitarian partners redoubled efforts to meet the most critical needs.

  • New response coordination tools are launched: (needs and response tracking e-tool; a logistics center in Kramatorsk).

Situation overview

The sharp spike of hostilities observed on 29 January to 3 February somewhat subsided. Yet, the security situation in Donetska and Luhanska oblasts remain extremely tense. 1 According to OSCE, heavy weapons, including those prohibited under the Minsk protocol, continue to be used and are present in areas along the ‘contact line’, including in locations where civilian population continue to reside. Indirect shelling and increasing use of heavy artillery continue to threaten the lives of people living in the conflict area, with disastrous impact in far and unexpected places. Several incidents witnessed during the second week of February demonstrate an alarming trend of indirect fire attacks by the parties to the conflict using heavy artillery from or against remote positions. This increases the risks for civilian casualties and undue humanitarian hardship for people living in these areas to occur.

Shrapnel resulting from shelling are the main cause of loss of lives and damages to infrastructure, according to OSCE. During the escalation between 29 January and 3 February, OHCHR recorded 48 conflict-related civilian casualties (all in Donetsk region): 7 deaths and 41 injuries. More civilian casualties have been reported since 3 February, but are yet to be confirmed. The somewhat lower intensity of fighting enabled the authorities, and the aid community to provide support to the victims of this tragedy.

According to the State Emergency Service of Ukraine (SES), since 29 January, at least 209 houses have been damaged in GCA, of which 176 in Avdiivka. As of 3 February, Donetsk de facto authorities reported damage to some 189 houses in Donetsk, Makiivka, Dokuchaievsk, Novoazovskyi and Yasynuvatskyi districtirs.

Since 3 February, at least 40 additional cases of damage to civilian infrastructure have been reported across the ‘contact line’ in Avdiivka, Toretsk, Marinka (GCA) Pikuzy, Donetsk and Dokuchaievsk (NGCA), and Donetskiy district of Luhansk NGCA. Although by the second week of February, most power lines have been restored, a sustained ceasefire is needed to ensure comprehensive repair works which will make electricity, water and heating systems fully operational.

On 8 February, shelling damaged power lines near Toshkivka (near Popasna, Luhansk GCA – 5-6,000 inhabitants), causing a blackout of a water filtering station and shortage of water in the area. On 9 February, Krymske village was cut off from power and the local school was left without heating. Services were restored on 10 February. These cases indicate a general trend of an increasing number of incidents collaterally affecting civilians, residential areas and public infrastructure in Luhansk province. As of 6 February, Donetsk Filter Station (DFS), which serves 400,000 people in GCA and NGCA, resumed operations. Contingency measures are required to ensure that the station will continue running in case of additional power cuts. As of 7 February, all residents in Avdiivka (est. 16,000 people) are connected to centralized power supply, while three nearby settlements (450 people) in Yasynuvata district (NGCA) remain without electricity. As the hostilities somewhat subsided during the weekend, electricity supply in Horlivka, water supply in parts of Donetsk and Dokuchaievsk (around 22,000 civilians were affected due to shelling on 2 February), gas supply in Donetsk and Makiivka (all NGCA) were restored. The leakage of the pipeline resulting from shelling near Avdiivka at the end of January has had ramifications for a wider area, including in Mariupol, where some 500,0000 people still have to rely on a backup reservoir for water and Volnovakha and Krasnoarmiiske, which remain vulnerable to water cuts. On 8 February, shelling near Talakivka (GCA) resulted in damage to a power-substation, cutting electricity there and in Hnutove and in Sartana (500 families). In Talakivka, two schools had to be closed until electricity supply is restored.

Checkpoints were also theatre of violence. Indirect fire was reported on 9 February at the Mariinka crossing point. Since the spike in violence, the number of individual crossings in both directions has significantly decreased (see graph below). Earlier drop in individual crossings occurred between 1 and 14 January 2017 following three holidays.

Continuing railroad blockade by veterans, on the GCA side of the ‘contact line’, is a growing concern as this could exacerbate existing vulnerabilities, trigger humanitarian consequences and social tensions. Financial losses, rising unemployment, the diminishing capacity of affected heating stations are some of the likely consequences of the blockade. Daily train cargo crossings have dropped dramatically – from an average of 50 daily crossings to 10 since the blockade began three weeks ago. Currently the movement of cargo trains is at standstill at the crossing points Svitlanove, Fenolna and Artiomivsk-2. On the night of 10-11 February, activists blocked one more railway track that runs between Yasynuvata and Kostyantynivka (Donetsk oblast). This track is essential for the daily delivery of industrial products, including coal, in both directions. As a result of the blockade, Slovyanska Power and Heating Station, which supplies heating to the inhabitants of Mykolayivka (GCA), started working in emergency mode.

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