Donetsk region: Hostages to lawless armed militants
The following statement issued by authoritative Donetsk civic organizations refers mainly to the Donetsk oblast, but also reflects the atmosphere of terror, threats and violence imposed by pro-Russian militants in the neighbouring Luhansk oblast. .
The authors note continuing deterioration in the situation in Donbas with respect to the fundamental human right to life and safety, the right to peaceful assembly, freedom of speech and the right to vote.
The efforts made by the Kyiv government to establish constitutional order and safeguard civil rights are insufficient and inadequate to the threats posed. Even greater responsibility lies with the local authorities who have effectively abdicated their responsibilities, including with regard to the presidential elections. A few days before the elections on May 25, residents do not know whether polling stations will be working, whether they will be able to vote, and to return home safely after doing so.
As of May 23, work is paralyzed at 14 out of 22 district election commissions [DEC] in the oblast. In Donetsk; Mariupol; Horlivka; Druzhkovka, as well as in other cities and districts armed militants have burst into buildings holding the election commissions, used threats to drive out the members, closed the commissions, taken away office equipment, documentation and stamps. A number of precinct election commissions [PEC] have not been formed since people are afraid for their lives if they work in them.
In many cities and districts of the oblast militants of the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic have established an atmosphere of threats, terror and violence. It has been virtually impossible to hold peaceful demonstrations in the region since the violent attack on a peaceful march on April 28 in Donetsk when the police stood and watched with indifference. Threats to pro-Ukrainian activists from the terrorists have become an everyday occurrence. Hundreds of active citizens have left the city and the region. They are effectively refugees, needing help, support and protection. Yet neither the local authorities, nor the government in Kyiv notice this.
These armed militants are depriving citizens of the right to information. A radio station of the self-proclaimed ‘republic’ is on air in the region, local television companies have been seized and Ukrainian channels cut off. It is extremely difficult to get any information other than that provided by Russian channels. There have been no efforts by the local authorities to improve the situation.
The police through their demonstrative inaction frequently act as the terrorists’ accomplices.
The local authorities blame the government in Kyiv for everything. This is sometimes not unwarranted, however they themselves are doing nothing to protect people from the militant and we do not hear any reproach from them, let alone demands that they lay down their weapons and stop the terror. They insist on negotiations with those who have no intention of stopping the terror, and in this way the threats to citizens’ rights only increase.
The majority of residents of the Donetsk oblast have been left to face the lawlessness of the gunmen alone, and have been living in a mounting legal vacuum for many weeks now. They have become hostages to a dirty game played by the political elite of the region, and their fundamental rights have been sacrificed for their phobias by irresponsible politicians.
The irresponsible and criminal position taken by local leaders and police is only fuelling the escalation of conflict and risking still greater misfortune.
Donetsk regional NGOs (for reasons that are unfortunately all too clear, the names of the organizations are not given here)