SMM patrol smallOSCE parliamentarians are briefed ahead of an SMM patrol, Kramatorsk, 12 May 2018. KRAMATORSK, 13 May 2018 – Following a two-day visit to areas close to the frontline in eastern Ukraine, a delegation of senior OSCE parliamentarians led by Parliamentary Assembly President George Tsereteli (MP, Georgia) called for urgent steps to alleviate the humanitarian situation of people impacted by the armed conflict.

“With the targeting of civilian housing and hospitals, destruction of schools, and extensive damage to agricultural production, everybody in the region has in reality become a casualty of war. The people in Donbas have been victims of this conflict for far too long now,” said President Tsereteli. “While a comprehensive solution to this conflict may still require time, there is no reason for the continued humanitarian tragedy here.”

The delegation includes former OSCE PA President and current Special Representative on Mediation, Finnish parliamentarian Ilkka Kanerva; the Chair of the OSCE PA’s human rights and humanitarian affairs committee, Spanish parliamentarian Ignacio Sanchez Amor; Swedish parliamentarian and OSCE PA Special Representative on Eastern Europe, Kent Harstedt; and OSCE PA Secretary General Roberto Montella.

“The urgency of the situation here in Donbas cannot be overstated and requires much more political will by the actors to find a lasting solution,” said Special Representative on Mediation Ilkka Kanerva. “In speaking to diplomats and politicians involved in the negotiations in the coming weeks, I hope to empower the voices I have heard here today to and encourage a more human-focused approach.”

Kent Harstedt DonbasKent Harstedt meeting with civilians living in the vicinity of the contact line, Maiorsk, 12 May 2018In Kramatorsk, Bakhmut and Maiorsk, the delegation met with internally displaced persons and people living in the conflict zone. OSCE parliamentarians also exchanged with local NGOs and international humanitarian organizations, as well as with representatives from the Donetsk and Luhansk regional administrations.

The visit, which was facilitated by the Ukrainian parliament and the OSCE’s Special Monitoring Mission in Ukraine (SMM), included extensive briefings on the situation in the region. It contributed to gain extensive insight into the work of the SMM, in particular their monitoring activities.

“The SMM has made an enormous contribution, serving as a reliable point of contact for all people in the conflict region, and providing credible and detailed information to the international community,” said Sanchez Amor, Chair of the PA’s General Committee on Democracy, Human Rights and Humanitarian Questions. “Such on-the-ground efforts provide a real service to people, but lasting solutions to the humanitarian concerns in the region require high-level government attention.”

Sanchez Amor also expressed gratitude to other international organizations and NGOs working under difficult circumstances to support the people of Donbas.

Slovyansk rubble smallOSCE PA President George Tsereteli and former President Ilkka Kanerva inspect ruins from the conflict in Slovyansk, 12 May 2018.The delegation condemned recent actions of harassment of OSCE monitors working in the region. They further called for the OSCE’s Special Monitoring Mission to be granted access to effectively monitor the entire Russian-Ukrainian border.

The OSCE Parliamentary Assembly has previously called for granting “all international and humanitarian organizations immediate access to the territories under occupation in certain areas of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine” (Tbilisi Declaration, 2016). The Assembly has consistently called for full implementation of the Minsk Agreements.

The high-level OSCE PA delegation is continuing to Kyiv in the coming days to meet with parliamentary and governmental leaders of Ukraine. Photos from the visit are available here.

The crisis in and around Ukraine is expected to once again be high on the agenda during the Assembly’s upcoming Annual Session to be held in Berlin, 7-11 July 2018.

Photos from the visit to eastern Ukraine are available for public use on Flickr.