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Ukraine: 'Without peace, humanitarian crisis will be uncontrollable', warns European Left

Statement of a delegation of the Party of the European Left just returned from Kiev

November 17, 2014 -- Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- A delegation of the Party of the European Left (EL), headed by two of its vice-presidents, Margarita Mileva and Maite Mola, returned on November 16, after a four-day visit to Kiev.

The aim of the trip was to learn about the situation of the conflict in Ukraine on the ground, in such difficult moments in which the tension increases dangerously and threatens to put an end to the ceasefire, the Minsk agreements and to restart large-scale combats in the province of Donbas.

During these days, the delegation met with activists of social movements, non-governmental organisations, organisations in defence of civil and human rights of Kiev and Donbas, with independent journalists and media activists as well as the Communist Party of Ukraine.

After these meetings, the Party of the European Left demands the European Union to quickly take action in order to contribute putting an end to the civil war in the east of the country and to urgently help in tackling the humanitarian catastrophe triggered in Donetsk and Lugansk.

Gas, water and electricity infrastructure have been destroyed in the war zones and, if nothing is done soon to avoid it, people will start dying of cold when the temperatures drop during winter. The government of Kiev does not pay pensions to retirees. The civil servants have not been paid since June. And the workers of the private sector who are paid cannot withdraw money from banks in the province. The situation threatens to worsen much more if the president fulfils the threats of closing hospitals and schools in Donbas and blocks the bank accounts of the inhabitants of the region.

The delegation regretted that President Poroshenko uses the patriotic mobilisation to divert attention from the economic crisis and the social problems suffered by the people of Ukraine. The EL requests the president and the new government to work for the peaceful resolution of the conflict and to avoid the aggravation of the humanitarian catastrophe of the population of Donbas and the citizen displaced by the conflict, something that they are not doing now.

The international delegation of the EL, that has been composed of prominent members of Die Linke (Germany), Dei Lenk (Luxembourg), the Party of Democratic Socialism (Czech Republic), the Workers' Party of Hungary 2006 (Hungary), in addition to its two vice-presidents, has reinforced its commitment to continue working for a just and lasting peace.

 

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Poroshenko Stops Benefits: Donbas Ukrainians feel betrayed

The Ukrainian government has issued a blow to people living in areas under the control of Kremlin-backed militants.  That at least is how many Ukrainians from Donbas view measures taken which could leave some of the most vulnerable people in Donbas effectively abandoned. 

First on Nov 7 the government announced that it would no longer be paying any social benefits or pensions to people living in areas under the control of the militants.  Those due such benefits – and Donbas is an area with a huge number of people receiving them – have until Dec 1 to leave for areas under government control and register as displaced persons.  If they do not, the pensions, etc. will be allocated, but they will only be able to receive them when the area is back under government control.  The Cabinet of Ministers has just issued a list of populated areas which fall into this category.  At the same time, President Petro Poroshenko has issued a decree which brings into force recommendations from the National Defence and Security Council.  This decree has some ominous elements indicating that the government believes fully-fledged war could be imminent.  It also orders that all public sector institutions, and penitentiary institutions be moved from the militant-controlled territory.  It gives the National Bank of Ukraine a month to stop servicing bank accounts, including bank cards, on the territory where the ‘anti-terrorist operation’, as the fighting is called, is taking place.

How the penitentiary institutions can be moved is unclear.  The Security Council suggests that an amnesty be applied with respect to people serving sentences for all but grave crimes.  People released from prison always encounter great difficulties in rebuilding their lives.  In the present situation it seems more than likely that many prisoners would resist the idea of being released into total uncertainty.

Until now the staff of such institutions were paid on bank cards from the central budget.  That, according to these new measures, will shortly change.   The special status of the areas in question, established as part of the Minsk agreement has also been cancelled in response to the pseudo-elections which first breached the agreement.

The reasoning as presented by Prime Minister Arseny Yatsenyuk on Nov 7 was clear: the Ukrainian state will no longer finance the terrorists who, heavily backed by Russia, have set up their so-called Donetsk and Luhansk people’s republics [DPR, LPR, respectively].  Those wishing to receive public funding need ‘only’ register in areas out of the militants’ grasp.

There are, however, multiple problems.

One could be resolved within 2 minutes or less since all that is needed is the President’s signature on the Law on Internally Displaced Persons [IDP].  This regulates the status and rights of at least 400 thousand people forced from their homes in the Crimea and Donbas..  The law was finally passed on Sept 20, and the fact that almost two months on it has still not come into force is scandalous.

Many of those who returned to Donbas after the formal ceasefire did so because they had no chance of finding work anywhere else and nowhere to stay long-term.

Lidia Kvashchenko writing for the Donetsk publication OstroV reports that since the government’s announcement there have been huge queues of people trying to re-register in order to receive their pensions, etc. She notes that the new measures have even led to the emergence of a new service with social networks full of requests to provide paid confirmation that a person is living in an area under government control.

There are many, however – the elderly, people in poor health, etc. – who are not in a position to leave.  Natalya, for example, is 55 and disabled after an accident many years ago.  She lives with her 24-year-old son whose asthma has seriously worsened after he was caught in shelling in August and her 93-year-old mother.  The elderly lady does not understand what is happening, and when she hears the sounds of warfare outside cries that the Nazis have come.  Natalya says that her mother could die of panic and fear if she was forced to leave her home, and Natalya does not feel able to leave her for the whole day that it would take to travel outside Donetsk to register.

Her mother has not received her pension since June while Natalya has received nothing since September.  She has a brother in Moscow but has no intention of going to Russia.  “You understand, I was at a rally for Ukraine in March, at my age I got a stone thrown at my head in reward.  … Yes, I’m a Ukrainian citizen and was not able to save my country. But the state could not defend me – up at the top they gave up Crimea, and now Donbas.  And because of that I’m supposed to leave my home and wander? Or simply remain here going hungry, together with my mother who is now facing the second war in her life.”

Not only will they be unable to receive their pensions, but all public sector institutions, including hospitals, will, according to the new measures, be taken away.

Nor is it only the old and infirm who cannot leave.  There are Ukrainians who have remained because they cannot leave others in need.

Another person from Donetsk, who stresses that he himself is impelled by his love of God, his country and people, posted even more bitter words on Facebook under the title “Is Donetsk not Ukraine? Or how the Kyiv authorities turned their back on Donbas”.

He writes that some call the measures a ‘mistake’.  He, however, believes it to be “betrayal and sabotage”.   “Everything that the current government is doing is a demonstration that the occupied cities of Ukraine and the people living in them, waiting for liberation, are already not Ukraine and not its citizens. And it looks as though nobody was or is planning to free Donbas, and all these thousand deaths are merely a bloody spectacle. The establishing of borders, the rejection of their citizens in occupied territories, that is nothing but the government’s acceptance of DPR with its borders and the legalization not of a terrorist organization, but a new improvised structure”.  The author writes that if Ukraine’s leaders were really concerned about Ukraine remaining whole, they would do everything so that the entire country was working for victory.  Instead, he says, there are volunteers, patriots, who are bringing food and clothes to help those in need, many are sacrificing their own health, fighting and dying while others live their ordinary lives, watching reports on their TV screens about some kind of war.

This is perhaps the brutal truth about most conflicts where those not directly involved observe from a safe, and comfortable, distance.  The situation here is, however, different.  The government’s reasoning behind the latest moves is clear and can be understood but, without  providing realistic assistance for all those trapped by the fighting, the new measures will leave many simply abandoned – and those who have remained in Donbas tirelessly helping other Ukrainians in their own country feeling understandably betrayed.

Republished from: Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group

Appeal by the Peoples Council of Luhansk and Trade Federation

Humanitarian appeal by the Peoples Council of Luhansk and Trade Union Federation of Luhansk

To: The United Nations
The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe
Public and human rights organizations of the world
To all people of good will

November 15, 2014

We address this appeal in the name of the suffering and wounded people of Lugansk region of Southeast Ukraine (Luganschina). Recent events show that the governing authorities in Kyiv are neglecting all international agreements and continuing to murder the civilian population of Donbass* and destroy its infrastructure.

The warmongers are not satisfied with taking the lives of women, children and elderly people. They have started to kill even unborn babies. On November 15, the maternity hospital in the town of Pervomaysk was shelled by the Ukrainian army.

Winter is coming, but the Ukrainian army purposefully destroys power stations, boiler stations for domestic heating, and systems of water and natural gas supply for entire cities and towns, thereby dooming an entire population to hunger and cold.

Schools and kindergartens, libraries and cultural centers, railway stations and highways are being deliberately destroyed. That’s how the railway connections to Kiev and to Odessa have been broken.

All this happens against the background of Kiev’s cynical statements of supposed commitment to the Minsk agreements on Sept. 5 providing for a ceasefire. Murdering thousands is not only a genocide against Ukraine’s own people, it is also a crime against humanity.

We do not call for revenge. Instead, we appeal to all people of good will to stop this violence and protect the world from the fascist nationalism unleashed in Ukraine. This must be done today and by the whole world, because tomorrow, the brown plague may come to your home, too.

We completely condemn the violence of the Ukrainian army against the civilians of Southeast Ukraine and we appeal to you – human-right advocates – to speak out to those in power, those who back the bloody regime in Kiev acting under the false slogan of protecting the ‘integrity of Ukraine’.

We appeal to international organizations — the United Nations, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe – and to others who defend peace. We pose to them the only question that matters: Do the millions of residents of Southeast Ukraine have a right to determine their future? Or do you think that their aspiration for peaceful life should be punished?

Signed,
The Peoples Council of the Lugansk People’s Republic
The Trade-Union Federation of Lugansk People’s Republic

* Donbass is the historic, industrialized region of southeast Ukraine that includes the oblasts (provinces, or regions) of Luhansk and Donetsk.–translator

Original statement in Russian here. This translation into English by the website The New Cold War: Ukraine and beyond. http://newcoldwar.org/humanitarian-appeal-peoples-council-luhansk-trade-union-federation-luhansk/

 

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