Call for action: Save Donbass people – Humanitarian agenda first, political agenda second

Once again, it is very important now that the root causes of the fighting that led to so much suffering are being removed. The humanitarian agenda in this respect should take the front seat. Any political agenda should come second.”

Alexander Hug, Principal Deputy Chief Monitor of the OSCE SMM,
February, 1 2017

A shift is emerging in the Ukrainian conflict. Under conditions of being besieged by military forces which limits what can be done together with an information blockade, the people of Donbass starts to act. It is crucial to listen to the voices from people in Eastern Ukraine.

We call for international action in support of the people of Donbass and peace in Europe.

We welcome any interest in cooperation to strengthen humanitarian efforts for the civilian victims of the war in Donbass, to expose the systematic violation of human rights in Ukraine, to widen the social, ecological, economic and international policy frameworks for the Ukrainian crisis, and to generally strengthen efforts for peace.

We also call for support against oppression of voices of peace and for the environment in Sweden and elsewhere.

International appeal from DNR and LNR

Escalated violence triggered Denis V. Pushilin (DPR’s envoy for the trilateral contact group in Minsk and chairman of the People’s Council in DPR) and Vladimir N. Degtjarenko (chairman of the People’s Council in LPR) to issue an appeal to the Russian, the US and the German leaders already on January, 31 2017.

“We ask you to stop Ukraine and compel Poroshenko to cease criminal actions against Donbass people. Make Poroshenko stop shooting civilians and lift the economic blockade. It must be done before it is too late. Prevent great trouble before an environmental and humanitarian disaster occurs in our land.”

Soon the articulated aims of number of signatures in support of the appeal were surpassed. Several hundreds of thousands signatures have been collected in support of this appeal to end the war and the terrible conditions people in Donbass are living under. More signatures are, with the help of social organisations, gathered every day.

This appeal is also, in solidarity, supported by the people in different countries in Europe and worldwide.

Background – Escalated violence, DPR-controlled Donetsk water filter station and negotiations in Minsk

The escalated violence between Ukrainian forces and those who belong to DPR and LPR. kills civilians and destroys vital infrastructure due to the pickets being far too close to each other along the contact line. In parallel, the national dialogues hosted by OSCE in Minsk have for a long period of time turned out to be difficult.

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Press conference with ambassador Martin Saydik – Special Representative of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office in Ukraine and in the Trilateral Contact Group – in Minsk February, 1 2017.
Picture through БелаПАН

February, 1 was however a joint statement made for the Avdeeveka-Yasinovata-Donetsk Airport triangle as well as along the whole line of contact. It calls for strict adherence to full and comprehensive cessation of fire, withdrawal by February, 5 2017 of armaments regulated by Minsk agreements, safe and secure access for OSCE SMM to fulfill their mandate and also facilitation of humanitarian efforts aimed at restoration of electricity and heating supplies including through repair of (vital) infrastructure.

The trilateral contact group met again February, 15. Special Representative of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office to the trilateral contact group; ambassador Martin Saydik told the press that consent was reached regarding the statement from February, 1. The new deadline was February, 20 and Sajdik told that the escalation of the conflict was also to be the theme of the next meeting in the Normandy format.

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Foreign Ministers of Ukraine Pavlo Klimkin, France Jean-Marc Ayrault, Russia Sergey Lavrov and Germany Sigmar Gabriel pose for a photograph during the 53rd Munich Security Conference in Munich, Germany on February, 18 2017.
Photo: Reuters/Sven Hopp

After an invitation from the German foreign minister Sigmar Gabriel, the Normandy format on February, 18 held a meeting on the side-lines of the Munich security conference. During a joint press conference of the four foreign ministers, a statement in support of the trilateral groups statements was made. Also here, February, 20 was given as the deadline for withdrawal of armaments.

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Dontesk water filtration station in Yasinovata.
Photo: OSSE SMM

As a result of escalations in the Avdeeveka-Yasinovata-Donetsk Airport triangle, the DPR-controlled Donetsk water filtration station (DFS) has due to shelling been put out of order several times during the last months. This has affected both sides of the contact line. The security situation continued to worsen and employees spent a lot of time in bomb shelters during ongoing shelling. February, 24, the management decided to stop work and evacuate all employees.

An extraordinary video conference was held the day after, on February, 25. Besides the trilateral contact group, also representatives from certain areas of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions (i.e. DPR and LPR) as well as the Joint Center for Control and Coordination (JCCC) and the Chief Monitor of OSCE SMM participated. An agreement was reached to undertake every effort to immediately ensure safe and secure access for repair teams so that full operability of DFS would be restored as soon as possible. Agreements was also made for secure access to be guaranteed to the DFS employees, which on a daily basis supply water to over half a million people on both sides of the line of contact. Further, OSCE SMM was again to be ensured safe and secure access to the area in order to enable its members to facilitate and monitor the repair works and the ceasefire in general. Details for implementing ceasefire and withdraw weapons was to be discussed during next meeting on March, 1.

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Statement by the Trilateral Contact Group and the Representatives from certain areas of Donetsk and Luhansk regions calling for ceasefire – February, 1 2017.

After another round of negotiations in Minsk, ambassador Martin Sajdik held a press conference March, 1 where he reminded of the statement made February, 1 with protection of civilian population and critical infrastructure. He said that special attention was paid to the performance and safety of DFS, which is significantly damaged as a result of hostilities and this had been discussed by the working group on Security issues as well as in the trilateral contact group including during the extraordinary video conference on February, 25. Based on a proposal of the Chief Monitor of OSCE SMM, ambassador Ertugul Apakan, the parties agreed on no shelling or other attack of the DFS, demining of the DFS area and its access roads and security guarantees (facilitated by JCCC) in order to enable safe, secure and unfettered access for the DFS staff, repair teams and the SMM.

Ambassador Sajdik also told that the parties reaffirmed their commitment to fully withdraw heavy weapons and that dilution of forces near Lugansk was scheduled for March, 7. The Working group on Economic Issues was reported to further have discussed the water supply in the Luhansk and Donetsk regions as well as protection of infrastructure objects indispensable to the survival of the civilian population.

Call for international action in support of the people of Donbass, in support of peace in Europe and in support of peace and environmental organisations in Sweden and elsewhere

We call upon all peace and humanitarian movements to address the calls from peoples on the ground. Together we can address this before the humanitarian and environmental situation worsens even more.

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Information leaflet from Activists for peace January, 19 2017.
Source: Activists for peace

In Sweden, we launched a campaign on January, 19 which marks three years since our government issued its annual foreign policy statement. The use of violence was denounced in relation to the Ukrainian conflict in 2014. Instead, the Ukrainian government was advised to, together with the opposition, seek a political solution out of the crisis. After the new pro-western government was installed three days later, Sweden changed its foreign policy and started to ignore the use of violence against the opposition. This includes ignorance in relation to the civilian victims which are the result of the war against the rebellion in Donbass; a war initiated by the Ukrainian government in April 2014. This is done by the Swedish government which often portrays itself as giving importance to humanitarian issues and promotes conflict resolution. In this case it is not so. Read more in Donbass and Swedish Ukrainian policy.

In NGOs and state funded research trying to silence peace voices in Sweden, you find a description of the way that state funded NGOs as well as main stream media, business think tanks and research institutes have joined forces to suppress opposition against the Swedish Ukrainian policy. The human rights NGOs PEN Sweden, Ordfront (In English: Word front) and Östgruppen för demokrati och mänskliga rättigheter (In English: The East group for democracy and human rights) have not, after the installation of a new Ukrainian government in February 2014 until the beginning of 2017, put forward any specific case among all the systematic violations of human rights that has taken place in Ukraine. During the same period, Ordfront and Östgruppen took part in a campaign to question a French documentary about extreme right fascist violence in Ukraine. Thus, these NGOs not only ignore human rights violations in Ukraine but also actively oppose that others expose and express concerns of this to the public.

In Sweden, any opposition to the Swedish Ukrainian policy as well opposition against closer ties to NATO are met by demonization; not only as promoters of Russian politics, but also allegedly as Putin´s personal agents. Until today, this reached a climax in January 2017 when researchers at The Swedish Institute of International Affairs published an article in an international journal where they labelled peace organizations, conspiracy theorists, environmentalists as well as right and left wing extremists together with the cultural section of the biggest daily in Sweden, to be proponents of a Russian narrative. It’s a harsh debate climate.

We welcome any interest in cooperation to;

  1. strengthen humanitarian efforts for the civilian victims of the war in Donbass,
  2. expose the systematic violation of human rights in Ukraine,
  3. widen the social, ecological, economic and international policy frameworks for the Ukrainian crisis, and
  4. generally strengthen efforts for peace.

We also call for support against oppression of voices of peace and for the environment in Sweden and elsewhere.

Our organisation – Activists for peace – and our campaign

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Our organisation – Aktivister för fred (In English: Activists for peace) – cooperates with several other peace and EU-critical organisations. We are always open for new cooperation.

We publish Ukrainabulletinen (In English: Ukraine bulletin), have a Swedish blog, an English blog and a Facebook-page.

We are organising a campaign during spring 2017 for fundraising to civilian victims of the war in Donbass and to expose the systematic violence against human rights in Ukraine. The main action day will be May, 2 when three years have passed since the Odessa massacre.

The launch of our campaign was made with support of, for example, the following material:

  1. Björk, Drake, Gahrton, Wechselmann: Stop the humanitarian crisis in Eastern Ukraine. 
Article published in Svenska Dagbladet Debatt, February, 19 2017 in relation to the launch of Activists for peace’s campaign.
    Original text in Swedish: Svenska Dagbladet Debatt and Aktivister för fred. The text is also available in Russian (PDF-format) and in English (PDF-format).
  2. Declaration of the Presidents of the People’s Councils of DPR and LPR – Denis V. Pushilin and Vladimir N. Degtyarenko.
    An appeal from Denis V. Pushilin (DPR’s  envoy for the trilateral contact group in Minsk and chairman of the People’s Council in DPR) and Vladimir N. Degtjarenko (chairman of the People’s Council in LPR) to the Russian, the US and the German leaders.
    This appeal is supported by the ongoing petition campaigns in DPR and LPR as well as elsewhere.
    Original text in Russian (PDF-format). The text is also available in English (PDF-format) and in Swedish (PDF-format).
  3. A leaflet for Activists for Peace’s campaign for fundraising to civilian victims of the war in Eastern Ukraine (In Swedish). 
    This is support for the Swedish humanitarian aid organisation Sankt Georgsbandet (In English: Ribbon of Saint George).
    Since the start in November 2014, Sankt Georgsbandet has distributed more than 20 000 Euros. The distribution has been mainly to LPR, but distribution have also taken place in DPR and in Slavyansk (controlled by the Ukrainian government).

Further reading

Donbass and Swedish Ukrainian policy.

NGOs and state funded research trying to silence peace voices in Sweden.

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