Translated by Ollie Richardson
Speaking at a press conference, the first deputy head of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission in Ukraine Alexander Hug gave interesting details of his trip to the contact line in Donbass. In particular, he spoke about how he and other employees of the mission were nearly killed and the humanitarian disaster in the settlement of Chigiri, which is in the so-called “gray zone” near Gorlovka and occupied by units of the UAF, in violation of the Minsk Agreements.
“Yesterday I, together with my colleagues from the OSCE SMM, visited the settlement of Chigiri, which belongs to Pivdennyi. Of course, some persons were resolutely determined to not allow us to see what is going on there. On initially entering the area, two single shots rang out, followed by a burst of small-arms fire, less than 100 metres from a number of my colleagues which were assessed as warning shots accompanied by shouting from the distance that we should not move further. All despite the fact that the sides had provided explicit security guarantees to allow for monitoring in the area. We also heard shouts that we don’t need to move ahead further. All of this happened despite the fact that the corresponding guarantees of safety were provided for patrol in this area”.
“The Ukrainian Armed Forces are present in Chigiri. We observed this. There has been intense fighting in the area, evidenced by the fact that there are numerous houses totally destroyed; burnt to the ground. As the soldiers move in – and as violence intensifies – civilians are moving out. In a visit to the area in February, we estimated about 150 people lived there. Now, only about 20.
Most have fled to either Gorlovka or Toretsk, where we also spoke to the now internally displaced persons. In Chigiri yesterday we met one IDP, returning to the village in order to retrieve some belongings.
What he discovered is not an uncommon story. Almost nothing remained of his home – just a smouldering heap of rubble; a lifetime’s work up in flames. Among his possessions lost was a book collection – over a thousand books collected over his life-time. Wisdom, learning, truth and progress forcefully set aside for – incinerated in fact by extremism, intransigence and violence.
In February Chigiri was tense but intact. Violence had not descended on the area. Homes were standing and residents could sleep in their beds at night. Only civilians were present in the area. Now it is a different reality. There are soldiers and weapons. There is violence, destruction, fear. A whole community largely uprooted. The few remaining people sleeping under their beds. Homes destroyed. A largely militarised ghost town. Yesterday we took a number of photographs, which alongside some taken in February, give some sense of what has become of a once largely peaceful community.
They speak for themselves. Two different realities. Dear friends, with a volatile security situation, civilians inevitably get hurt; in more ways than one. The worsening security situation in May did in fact result in 43 confirmed civilian casualties – 11 deaths and 32 injuries. Other cases are pending, and so we expect the number of confirmed civilian casualties to rise.”
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