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OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (SMM) Daily Report 200/2021 issued on 27 August 2021

OSCE - Fri, 08/27/2021 - 21:38
SDGs SDGs:  16 - Peace, justice and strong institutions

Summary

  • In Donetsk region, the SMM recorded 87 ceasefire violations, including 28 explosions. In the previous reporting period, it recorded 12 ceasefire violations in the region.
  • In Luhansk region, the Mission recorded 155 ceasefire violations, including 51 explosions. In the previous reporting period, it recorded 107 ceasefire violations in the region.
  • The Mission continued monitoring the disengagement areas near Stanytsia Luhanska, Zolote and Petrivske. It recorded ceasefire violations close to the disengagement areas near Zolote and Petrivske.
  • The SMM facilitated and monitored adherence to localized ceasefires to enable the operation and repairs to critical civilian infrastructure.
  • The Mission continued following up on the situation of civilians, including at four entry-exit checkpoints and three corresponding checkpoints of the armed formations in Donetsk and Luhansk regions.
  • The Mission’s freedom of movement continued to be restricted, including at a heavy weapons holding area and a permanent storage site, at checkpoint of the armed formations, and at two border crossing points in non-government-controlled areas of Donetsk and Luhansk regions. Its unmanned aerial vehicles again experienced instances of GPS signal interference.*
Categories: Central Europe

Press Statement of Special Representative Kinnunen after the regular Meeting of Trilateral Contact Group on 26 August 2021

OSCE - Thu, 08/26/2021 - 22:56

KYIV, 26 August 2021 – The Special Representative of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office in Ukraine and in the Trilateral Contact Group (TCG), Ambassador Mikko Kinnunen, made the following statement to the press after the regular meetings of the TCG ‎and its Working Groups held through video conferencing:

“I was pleased to attend my first TCG meeting as Special Representative of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office in Ukraine and in the TCG. I am ready to make every effort for seeking and finding solutions for a peaceful settlement of the conflict and look forward to constructive cooperation and active engagement of the participants.

I would also like to express my gratitude to my predecessor, Ambassador Heidi Grau. I sincerely thank her for the valuable work she did and for her manifold achievements, including the July 2020 agreement on strengthening of the ceasefire.

The security situation along the contact line remains stable but fragile with an average of 180 cease-fire violations per day reported by SMM during August 2021. The discussions in the Security Working Group today touched upon means to reduce the violence, however work on this important issue should continue.

An improved security situation is key to achieving results in other areas, like humanitarian and economic.

Following months of impasse due to divergence on procedural issues, I welcome the fact that the participants of the Political Working Group were able to engage in formal consultations on development of an action plan in full compliance with the Minsk agreements, as previously tasked by the TCG.

Water issues were among the topics discussed in the Economic Working Group where particular attention was paid to water supplies to CALO. Moreover, participants engaged in an exchange on pension payments and ecological questions, including protection against environmental hazards emanating from flooded mines.

I regret that discussions in the Humanitarian Working Group stalled due to the controversy over a new expert appointment. As a consequence, important issues including the mutual exchange of detainees and freedom of movement across the contact line could not be addressed. I call upon all participants be responsible and seek a swift way out of this impasse.

Today we had an exchange of views on possible internal rules of procedure of the TCG. The argument was made that rules of procedure, if agreed, could facilitate our work.

Due to COVID-19 the TCG has not had a face-to-face meeting since March 2020. There seems to be consensus on the need to return to physical meetings, however further consideration on the venue is needed.”

Categories: Central Europe

OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (SMM) Daily Report 199/2021 issued on 26 August 2021

OSCE - Thu, 08/26/2021 - 20:26
SDGs SDGs:  16 - Peace, justice and strong institutions

Summary

  • In Donetsk region, the SMM recorded 12 ceasefire violations, including five explosions. In the previous reporting period, it recorded 125 ceasefire violations in the region.
  • In Luhansk region, the Mission recorded 107 ceasefire violations, including 24 explosion. In the previous reporting period, it recorded 61 ceasefire violations in the region.
  • Small-arms fire was assessed as directed at an SMM mini-unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) near non-government-controlled Kashtanove, Donetsk region.
  • The Mission continued monitoring the disengagement areas near Stanytsia Luhanska, Zolote and Petrivske. It recorded ceasefire violations close to the disengagement areas near Zolote and Petrivske.
  • The SMM facilitated and monitored adherence to localized ceasefires to enable the operation of critical civilian infrastructure.
  • The Mission continued following up on the situation of civilians, including at four entry-exit checkpoints and three corresponding checkpoints of the armed formations in Donetsk and Luhansk regions.
  • The SMM observed National Flag Day and Ukrainian Independence Day celebrations in Odessa, Dnipro Kharkiv and Ivano-Frankivsk regions.
  • The Mission’s freedom of movement continued to be restricted, including at two heavy weapons holding areas in non-government-controlled areas of Donetsk region. Its UAVs again experienced multiple instances of GPS signal interference.*
Categories: Central Europe

OSCE Project Co-ordinator in Uzbekistan conducts study visit for government delegation to the International Institute for the Unification of Private Law

OSCE - Thu, 08/26/2021 - 14:07
496438

With support of the OSCE Project Co-ordinator in Uzbekistan, a delegation of Uzbek government officials participated in a study visit to the Headquarters of the International Institute for the Unification of Private Law (UNIDROIT) in Rome from 24 to 27 August 2021.

Officials from the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Tashkent State University of Law were part of the delegation.

During the visit, a ceremony of signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the Tashkent State University of Law and UNIDROIT took place.

The visit was organized by the Project Co-ordinator as part of its joint efforts with the Government of Uzbekistan to align the national legislation on private property protection with best international practices and standards.

Categories: Central Europe

OSCE Mission to Montenegro supports survivors of domestic and gender-based violence

OSCE - Thu, 08/26/2021 - 12:03
496432 Marina Živaljević

The OSCE Mission to Montenegro has supported the NGO Safe Women’s House to increase its shelter capacities for survivors of domestic and gender-based violence, by providing a prefabricated house in June 2021. On 24 August, Siv-Katrine Leirtroe, Acting Head of the Mission, visited the shelter.

State authorities and relevant NGOs reported a rise in the number of cases related to domestic violence during the COVID-19 pandemic, which required increased shelter accommodation. Therefore, the Mission initiated consultations with civil society in order to identify and tackle the most urgent issues regarding accommodation. 

The NGO Safe Women’s House had already been providing shelter, but with insufficient capacities. The Mission implemented a project that resulted in increasing the number of shelter places from 12 to 17. Furthermore, the NGO can now accommodate women with disabilities, which had not been the case in the past.

During the visit to the shelter, Leirtroesaid that domestic and gender-based violence is a serious problem for any society and it takes a systemic approach to solve it. “However, when violence takes place, having a safe place to accommodate survivors is of utmost importance,” said Leirtroe.

Budislavka Mira Saveljić, NGO Director, thanked the Mission for the donation and pointed out that in the past two months, since they started using the house as an additional shelter, they hosted five women and three children, including one woman with disabilities. “We have long been dreaming of a prefabricated house, as it proved to be a necessity. Thanks to the OSCE Mission to Montenegro, our dream has finally come true,” said Saveljić.

In addition to Mission’s support, an informal group called OSCE Men for Gender Equality was established in the OSCE Secretariat in Vienna, initiating a charity fundraiser, whereas the NGO Safe Women’s House was identified as the beneficiary. Funds collected were used to furnish the prefabricated house with educational content for children, pottery for the kitchen, bedding, material for occupational workshops, and small household appliances.

The OSCE Mission to Montenegro will continue to support institutions and civil society organizations in promoting gender equality in society with zero tolerance towards gender-based violence.

Categories: Central Europe

ODIHR opens election observation mission in Georgia

OSCE - Thu, 08/26/2021 - 10:49

TBILISI, 26 August 2021 – The OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) today opened an election observation mission (EOM) for the 2 October local elections in Georgia, following an invitation from the national authorities.

The mission is led by Ambassador Albert Jónsson and consists of a core team of 12 experts based in Tbilisi and 30 long-term observers, who will be deployed throughout the country from 4 September. In addition, ODIHR plans to request OSCE participating States to send 350 short-term observers, who would arrive several days before election day. 

The mission will assess whether the elections are held in line with OSCE commitments and other international obligations and standards for democratic elections, as well as with national legislation. Observers will closely monitor fundamental aspects of the elections such as voter registration, campaign activities, the work of the election administration and relevant government bodies, election-related legislation and its implementation, and the resolution of election-related disputes. The mission will also monitor media coverage of the campaign.

Meetings with representatives of relevant authorities and political parties, civil society, the media and the international community form an integral part of the observation.

An interim report will be published to update the public and media during the course of the observation. The day after the elections, a statement of preliminary findings will be presented at a press conference, and ODIHR will publish a final report summing up the observation and making recommendations for improvements approximately two months after the end of the election process.

For further information on ODIHR’s election observation activities in Georgia, please visit: https://www.osce.org/odihr/elections/georgia/496309

Media contacts:

Giovanna Maiola, Media Analyst: Giovanna.Maiola@odihr.ge  or +995 595316983

or

Katya Andrusz, ODIHR Spokesperson: +48 609 522 266 (Warsaw mobile), or katya.andrusz@odihr.pl.

Categories: Central Europe

OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (SMM) Daily Report 198/2021 issued on 25 August 2021

OSCE - Wed, 08/25/2021 - 19:33
SDGs SDGs:  16 - Peace, justice and strong institutions

Summary

  • In Donetsk region, the SMM recorded 125 ceasefire violations, including 29 undetermined explosions. In the previous reporting period, it recorded 61 ceasefire violations in the region.
  • In Luhansk region, the Mission recorded 61 ceasefire violations, including one undetermined explosion. In the previous reporting period, it recorded 20 ceasefire violations in the region.
  • Small-arms fire was assessed as directed at four SMM mini-unmanned aerial vehicles near non-government-controlled Vesele, Oleksandrivka, Syhnalne and Donetsk city’s Leninskyi district, Donetsk region.
  • The Mission continued monitoring the disengagement areas near Stanytsia Luhanska, Zolote and Petrivske. It recorded ceasefire violations inside the disengagement area near Petrivske and outside the disengagement area near Zolote.
  • The SMM facilitated and monitored adherence to localized ceasefires to enable the operation of critical civilian infrastructure.
  • The Mission continued following up on the situation of civilians, including at three entry-exit checkpoints and the corresponding checkpoints of the armed formations in Luhansk region.
  • The SMM observed National Flag Day and Ukrainian Independence Day celebrations in Donetsk, Kherson, Lviv, Chernivtsi and Kyiv regions.
  • The Mission’s freedom of movement continued to be restricted, including at a checkpoint of the armed formations in southern Donetsk region.*
Categories: Central Europe

Situation in Afghanistan and impact on Central Asia in focus at meeting with OSCE PA delegations and OSCE field offices from region

OSCE - Wed, 08/25/2021 - 17:23

COPENHAGEN, 25 August 2021 – With an aim to learning about the expected impact of developments in Afghanistan on neighbouring Central Asian countries and finding out how the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly can contribute to addressing concerns and meeting challenges, PA President Margareta Cederfelt (Sweden) convened an online meeting today with the heads of OSCE PA delegations and representatives of OSCE field offices in the region, as well as other relevant actors such as the OSCE Conflict Prevention Centre.

President Cederfelt was joined by Saidmurod Fattohzoda, Head of the Delegation of Tajikistan to the OSCE PA, and Sadik Safoev, Head of the Delegation of Uzbekistan to the OSCE PA, for discussions that focused on the security and humanitarian situation related to the withdrawal of international forces from Afghanistan and the Taliban’s takeover.

Also participating in the meeting were OSCE PA Special Representative on Central Asia and Vice-President Pia Kauma (Finland), Special Representative on Sustainable Development Goals and Vice-President Askar Shakirov (Kazakhstan), and OSCE PA Secretary General Roberto Montella. They were joined by representatives of the OSCE Programme Office in Dushanbe, the OSCE Centre in Ashgabat and the OSCE Project Co-ordinator in Uzbekistan.Talks focused on border security, possible refugee flows, radicalization, transnational crime, and human rights, including the rights of women and girls, as well as ethnic and religious minorities.

“We are very worried about the situation and it is important to listen to those who are closest to Afghanistan and find out if there is anything we can do to contribute to promoting stability and respect for human rights,” said President Cederfelt opening the meeting. “The OSCE Parliamentary Assembly will work to assist as much as possible through our tools such as the Ad Hoc Committee on Migration, the Ad Hoc Committee on Countering Terrorism, and relevant Special Representatives. We will continue our work to serve our people.”

Cederfelt briefed participants about an earlier meeting on the subject last week with deputy heads of OSCE field offices in the three neighboring Central Asian states, noting that the situation is unpredictable and therefore it is important for OSCE parliamentarians to remain engaged.

Special Representative Pia Kauma said that Afghanistan’s security will not only affect neighboring countries but also the wider region, and emphasized the importance of keeping focus on the situation of refugees following the scheduled withdrawal of international troops by the end of August.

In his remarks, Shakirov stressed the importance of working to build confidence of the Afghan people. He highlighted concerns such as regional security and refugee flows, stressing the need to keep the situation under review.

Speaking on behalf of the OSCE PA’s Delegation from Tajikistan, Fattohzoda highlighted the importance of restoring peace in Afghanistan, noting that this would have a positive impact on the region as a whole. Political dialogue should be based on ensuring respect for human rights of all segments of society, he said.

Representing Uzbekistan’s Delegation to the OSCE PA, Safoev said that the main point of concern at the moment is the refugees, pointing out that Uzbekistan is working with numerous countries to manage humanitarian evacuations and to prevent spillover effect from Afghanistan to neighboring countries. In this regard, he stressed the need for more co-operation on border control, and called for increased co-ordination and exchange of views at the international level following a systematic approach. He noted that Uzbekistan supports talks in Doha to bring peace to Afghanistan, and stressed the need for the Taliban to fully respect international law.

The heads of OSCE field operations in Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan highlighted the importance of co-ordination and communication in meeting the security challenges in the region. Even before recent developments there have been serious concerns about border security, it was stressed, and in this regard the OSCE is working closely with host governments to develop the capacity of border troops. Projects may also be adapted, within the scope of current mandates, to enhance capacity building of the host countries in the field of security and combating violent extremism and radicalization that leads to terrorism.

Secretary General Montella noted that the August 31 deadline could represent a major upheaval for the way of life of millions of Afghans, in particular women and girls, and the international community must therefore emphasize the fundamental nature of human rights, stressing the obligations of governments to recognize and respect the rights of all their citizens.

It was emphasized that the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly is a good platform for focusing attention on the issue and participants expressed the desire to maintain close co-ordination and dialogue with the PA. President Cederfelt underlined the PA’s appreciation for the work of the OSCE field operations and pledged to help highlight their priorities.

Categories: Central Europe

OSCE leaders condemn violence in Afghanistan and destabilization of region, call for respect for human rights and rule of law

OSCE - Wed, 08/25/2021 - 15:07

VIENNA/STOCKHOLM/WARSAW, 25 August 2021 — OSCE leaders today condemned the violence in Afghanistan, expressed their deep worry about the ongoing developments and reaffirmed the OSCE’s support towards ensuring safety and security throughout the region. 

OSCE Chairperson-in-Office, Swedish Minister for Foreign Affairs Ann Linde, OSCE Secretary General Helga Maria Schmid, and Director of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) Matteo Mecacci expressed serious concerns over the treatment of Afghan people, particularly women and girls, following reports of increasing violence and a breakdown of law and order in Afghanistan.

“I am deeply worried about the security situation in Afghanistan, in particular for women and girls,” Chairperson-in-Office Linde said. “The international community needs to follow up on reports about violations and abuses of human rights, as well as violations of international humanitarian law. As Chair, I will pay close attention to the consequences of developments in Afghanistan for the OSCE region.”

They stressed the importance of respecting human rights and the rule of law as inextricable cornerstones of society, calling for these to be upheld without compromise. 

“Afghanistan has been an OSCE partner for Co-operation since 2003. Our partnership was established and has been maintained on the basis of Afghanistan’s support to OSCE principles and commitments — helping ensure safety, security and equal rights for its people, particularly women and girls,” said Secretary General Schmid. “This will continue to determine the extent of our future support and cooperation.”

The brutal treatment and persecution of civilians as well as human rights defenders, journalists and media workers must end immediately, the OSCE leaders stressed.

“The current situation demonstrates beyond all possible doubt that long-lasting security is only possible when democratic principles are followed by all political actors, and respect for the human rights of all individuals in society is guaranteed,” ODIHR Director Mecacci said.  “Any future cooperation by ODIHR with the Afghan authorities will need to include protection of the human rights of all Afghans, particularly women and girls, as well as active support for civil society.”

A peaceful resolution of the new politico-military situation in Afghanistan is also critical to countries in the Central Asian region, said the OSCE leaders. They emphasized that security and stability in the OSCE region is contingent on the security and stability in neighbouring countries.

They underscored the Organization’s long-standing co-operation and strong partnerships with its participating States and Partners for Co-operation in the region, including Afghanistan, and reiterated the OSCE’s continued support, in line with OSCE commitments and principles, towards ensuring the security, stability, and safety of all people in Afghanistan, the region and beyond.

Categories: Central Europe

Fifth International Summer School for Junior Diplomats takes place in Issyk-Kul, Kyrgyzstan

OSCE - Wed, 08/25/2021 - 11:57
496288

From 22 to 28 August 2021, twenty young diplomats from Belarus, Hungary, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and the Russian Federation are taking part in a five-day International Summer School for Junior Diplomats in Issyk-Kul, Kyrgyzstan.

The school provides a unique platform for young diplomats to discuss global and regional issues with a special focus on diplomacy in the post-COVID-19 pandemic era and adaptation to a changing world.Participants will learn more about issues such as multilateral diplomacy in Central Asia, the role of the OSCE, the future of international peace and security, gender equality, migration, new cyber threats, and digital co-operation through interactive group discussions and Q&A sessions.

“The Summer School provides an opportunity for the junior diplomats to fortify their knowledge and enrich intellectual background that will be useful in their professional activities and career,” said Alexey Rogov, Head of the OSCE Programme Office in Bishkek.

The School is organized by the Diplomatic Academy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Kyrgyzstan with the support of the OSCE Programme Office in Bishkek.

Categories: Central Europe

OSCE Media Freedom Representative concerned about sanctions in Ukraine that endanger media freedom and free flow of information

OSCE - Wed, 08/25/2021 - 10:31

VIENNA, 25 August 2021 – OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Teresa Ribeiro today expressed her concern regarding Ukraine’s practice of applying sanctions that negatively affect the work of media outlets and journalists.

Ribeiro’s comments follow last week’s decisions of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine on the application of sanctions against several individuals and legal entities, which resulted in the banning of access to various news outlets, including, among others, Strana, Vedomosti and Moskovsky Komsomolets.

“While Ukraine has a legitimate right to protect its national security, the authorities should find a balanced and proportional solution in addressing media related concerns, a solution that preserves media pluralism, free flow of information and diversity of opinions in line with relevant international standards and OSCE commitments,” Ribeiro said. “Media freedom is dependent on a healthy, vibrant and competitive landscape, which includes voices that provide a variety of news. Any sanctions on media should be subject to careful scrutiny, accompanied by effective procedural safeguards to prevent undue interference.”

Ribeiro pointed the authorities to her Communiqué “On the right of the media to freely collect, report and disseminate information, news and opinions, regardless of frontiers,” published in May 2021, in which she recommended participating States to “promote more debate and an open, diverse and dynamic media environment, also on issues that they deem ‘foreign’ or ‘not correct’.”

The OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media observes media developments in all 57 OSCE participating States. She provides early warning on violations of freedom of expression and media freedom and promotes full compliance with OSCE media freedom commitments. Learn more at www.osce.org/fom, Twitter: @OSCE_RFoM and on www.facebook.com/osce.rfom.

Categories: Central Europe

ODIHR observers to Georgia’s local elections to hold press conference on Thursday

OSCE - Wed, 08/25/2021 - 09:54

TBILISI, 25 August 2021 – Observers from the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) will hold a press conference on the opening of the observation mission to the local elections in Georgia on Thursday, 26 August.

NB Due to social distancing requirements, only 30 journalists will be able to attend the press conference in person, while all others will have the opportunity to watch and ask questions via Zoom. Broadcast media wishing to film the press conference will be prioritized for personal attendance.

What:

  • An introduction to the role of the ODIHR election observation mission and its planned activities
  • The press conference can be attended in person or via Zoom (details below)

Who:

  • Albert Jónsson, Head of the ODIHR Election Observation Mission

When:

  • 15.00 local time (GMT +4) on 26 August 2021

Where:

  • Ballroom, Marriott hotel, Rustaveli Avenue 13, Tbilisi

Registration:

  • No registration is necessary if you are attending the press conference in person, but only questions from journalists will be taken
  • To take part via Zoom, please register with: Katya Andrusz, ODIHR spokesperson: katya.andrusz@odihr.pl and Giovanna Maiola, media analyst:  Giovanna.Maiola@odihr.ge  or phone +995 595316983

For further information on ODIHR’s election observation activities in Georgia, please visit: https://www.osce.org/odihr/elections/georgia

Categories: Central Europe

OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (SMM) Daily Report 197/2021 issued on 24 August 2021

OSCE - Tue, 08/24/2021 - 23:07
SDGs SDGs:  16 - Peace, justice and strong institutions

Summary

  • In Donetsk region, the SMM recorded 61 ceasefire violations, including 16 explosions. In the previous 24 hours, it recorded 112 ceasefire violations in the region.
  • In Luhansk region, the Mission recorded 20 ceasefire violations, including two explosions. In the previous 24 hours, it recorded no ceasefire violations in the region.
  • The SMM followed up on damage to an apartment in non-government-controlled Zolote-5/Mykhailivka, Luhansk region.
  • The Mission continued monitoring the disengagement areas near Stanytsia Luhanska, Zolote and Petrivske. It recorded ceasefire violations inside the disengagement area near Petrivske.
  • The SMM facilitated and monitored adherence to localized ceasefires to enable the operation of and repairs to critical civilian infrastructure.
  • The Mission continued following up on the situation of civilians, including at four entry-exit checkpoints and the corresponding checkpoints of the armed formations in Donetsk and Luhansk regions.
  • The SMM monitored gatherings in Kyiv.
  • The Mission’s freedom of movement continued to be restricted, including at two checkpoints of the armed formations in southern Donetsk region. Its unmanned aerial vehicles again experienced instances of GPS signal interference.*
Categories: Central Europe

Weekly Update from the OSCE Observer Mission at Russian Checkpoints Gukovo and Donetsk based on information as of 24 August 2021

OSCE - Tue, 08/24/2021 - 14:06

SUMMARY

Kamensk-Shakhtinskiy, Russian Federation. The Observer Mission (OM) continues to operate 24/7 at both Border Crossing Points (BCPs). The overall number of border crossings by persons increased at both BCPs compared to the previous week. 

OPERATIONAL REMARKS

The OM is currently operating with 22 permanent international Mission members, including the Chief Observer (CO). The Mission is supported administratively by a staff member and the Chief of Fund Administration based in Vienna.

Update on COVID-19 measures

Activities have been impacted by COVID-19 and measures undertaken by the OM to ensure the safety and duty of care of its Mission members and compliance with measures set by the host country authorities. The Mission is continuing to keep the situation under review, in close contact with the OSCE Secretariat and the Chairpersonship. Following the host country’s recommendations, the observers are adhering to social distancing. Due to the preventive measures taken by the central and regional authorities, the OM is faced with certain difficulties, but is still able to continue to fulfil its mandate without any limitations in its observation and reporting activities. The vaccination process provided by the host country medical system continues on a voluntary basis. To date, 80 per cent of OM staff have now been vaccinated. The OM is fully staffed and operational.

OBSERVATIONS AT THE BORDER CROSSING POINTS

Persons crossing the border                                                                                                                                       

The profile of persons crossing the border can be categorized as follows:

  1. Adults travelling on foot or by car with little or no luggage.
  2. Persons in military-style outfits.
  3. Families (often including elderly persons and/or children) travelling on foot or by car with a significant amount of luggage.

The average number of entries/exits increased from 10,832 to 11,594 per day at both BCPs compared to last week. During the reporting period, the majority of border crossings were to the Russian Federation, with an average net flow of 184 per day for both BCPs. The Donetsk BCP continued to experience much more traffic than the Gukovo BCP.

Responding to the COVID-19 situation, the host country closed its borders for the majority of foreigners starting from 18 March 2020. Among the exceptions of persons allowed to cross the border (which entered into force on 19 March) are Ukrainian citizens and stateless persons holding passports or identification documents proving permanent residence in certain areas of Luhansk and Donetsk regions of Ukraine. In addition, reportedly, due to the threat of the spread of COVID-19, starting from 10 April 2020, the organized passenger transport commuting between the non-government-controlled areas of Luhansk region of Ukraine and the Russian Federation was temporarily suspended and restored from 25 June 2020. Currently, the crossing of people is going on at a quasi-normal level.

Persons in military-style outfits

During the reporting period, the number of persons in military-style outfits crossing the border was five, compared to seven last week; one person crossed into the Russian Federation while four persons crossed into Ukraine. These individuals crossed the border on foot. All five military-style persons crossed at the Donetsk BCP.

Families with a significant amount of luggage

The OTs continued to report on families, sometimes with elderly persons and/or children, crossing the border at both BCPs with a significant amount of luggage, or travelling in heavily loaded cars. During this reporting week, two families were observed crossing into the Russian Federation while one family was observed crossing into Ukraine, compared to the previous reporting period when three families were observed crossing into the Russian Federation and another three into Ukraine.

Bus connections                                         

Regular local and long-distance bus connections continued to operate between Ukraine (mostly from/to the Luhansk region) and the Russian Federation. During the reporting period, the OTs observed an increase in the overall number of buses crossing the border at both BCPs (445 compared to 411 observed during the previous week). There were 222 buses bound for the Russian Federation and 223 bound for Ukraine.

On some occasions, the OTs noticed the bus drivers removing the itinerary signs from the windshields of their buses, while some buses did not display their route at all. The majority of long-distance buses commuting between the Luhansk region and cities in the Russian Federation had Ukrainian licence plates issued in the Luhansk region. Among the bus connections observed by the OT, the following irregular route or destination was noted: Luhansk – Sevastopol.

Trucks

During the reporting period, the OTs observed an increase in the overall number of trucks crossing the border at both BCPs (803 compared to 655 during the previous reporting week); 428 at the Gukovo BCP and 375 at the Donetsk BCP, 393 of these trucks crossed into the Russian Federation, and 410 crossed into Ukraine. Most of the trucks observed by the OTs had Ukrainian licence plates issued in the Luhansk region; however, on a daily basis, the OTs also noted trucks registered in Belarus, Lithuania, the Russian Federation, and trucks with “LPR” and “DPR” plates.

The OTs also continued to observe tanker trucks crossing the border in both directions. During the reporting period, the overall number of tanker trucks crossing the border at both BCPs slightly decreased (41 compared to 42 during the previous week). These trucks were observed crossing the border at both BCPs. The trucks had the words “Propane” and “Flammable” written across the tanks in either Russian or Ukrainian. The majority of tanker trucks had hazard signs, indicating that they were transporting propane or a mix of propane and butane. All trucks underwent systematic inspection by Russian Federation officials, which could include an X-ray check. Due to the unfavourable observation position at the Gukovo BCP, the OTs continued to be unable to observe any X-ray checks.

Compared to the previous week, the total number of X-ray checks at the Donetsk BCP increased from 160 to 183. Of the total number of trucks scanned 182 trucks (99 per cent) were bound for Ukraine and one (one per cent) was bound for the Russian Federation.

Minivans

The OM continued to observe passenger and cargo minivans[1] crossing the border in both directions at both BCPs. The OTs observed minivans predominantly with Ukrainian licence plates issued in the Luhansk region; however, the OTs also saw minivans registered in the Russian Federation. During the reporting period, the OTs observed an increase in the overall number of minivans crossing the border at both BCPs (181 compared to 137 observed during the previous week); 99 crossed into the Russian Federation and another 82 into Ukraine.

Trains

The OTs continued to pick up the sound of trains on the railway tracks located approximately 150m south-west of the Gukovo BCP. During the reporting week, the OTs heard trains on 35 occasions; the OTs assessed that 20 trains were travelling to the Russian Federation and the remaining 15 trains were travelling to Ukraine (more details are provided in the sections “trends and figures at a glance” below).

Visual observation was not possible because of the line of trees located between the train tracks and the BCP.

Other observations

The majority of vehicles crossing the border had Ukrainian licence plates issued in the Luhansk region or Russian Federation licence plates. A significant number of vehicles with “LPR” plates were also observed crossing the border in both directions on a daily basis. The OTs also observed vehicles with Georgian, Polish, Lithuanian licence plates and “DPR” plates too.

On 17 August at 22:32, the OT at the Donetsk BCP observed two trucks with “LPR” plates and an inscription ‘’LPR Post’’ (in Russian) on the side, arriving from the Russian Federation. After undergoing border and customs control procedures, the vehicles left the BCP for Ukraine at 22:42.

On 21 August at 10:00, the OT at the Donetsk BCP observed a police vehicle, model UAZ-469 with an inscription “POLICE” (in Russian), entering the BCP from the Russian Federation and parking behind the main building. At 10:10, the police vehicle drove back towards the Russian Federation. The OT was unable to notice any other details from its position.

On 23 August at 09:35, the OT at the Donetsk BCP observed a helicopter type Mi-8/Mi-17 flying from the north in a southerly direction at an altitude of approximately 500m. The helicopter remained inside the airspace of the Russian Federation the entire time it was visible to the OT.

On 24 August at 03:20, the OT at the Donetsk BCP observed two white minivans with "LPR" plates arriving at the BCP from Ukraine. The minivans had the sign “LPR Post” displayed on the sides (in Russian). After undergoing border control procedures, the vehicles left the BCP for the Russian Federation at 03:40.

For trends and figures at a glance covering the period from 20 July 2021 to 24 August 2021, please see the attachment here.

[1]Cargo minivans: light commercial vehicles with a maximum authorized mass of more than 3.5 t and not more than 7.5 t; with or without a trailer with a maximum mass of less than 750 kg (small cargo vehicles that correspond to driving licence C1).

Categories: Central Europe

OSCE Media Freedom Representative expresses grave concern about dangerous effects of ‘foreign agent’ legislation on media freedom in Russia

OSCE - Tue, 08/24/2021 - 12:00

VIENNA, 24 August 2021 – OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Teresa Ribeiro today expressed her grave concern regarding the expanding practice by Russian authorities to designate media outlets and journalists as ‘foreign agents’.

Ribeiro’s comments follow the Ministry of Justice’s decision of 20 August to add the Moscow-based independent television channel Dozhd (TV Rain) and the Latvia-registered investigative media portal Vazhniye Istorii (iStories) to its list of ‘foreign agents’. On the same day, the Ministry also registered six journalists from iStories as ‘foreign agents’. 

“The status of ‘foreign agent’ imposes excessive burdens upon media organizations and individuals, and, by stigmatizing them, exerts a dangerous chilling effect on their work,” Ribeiro said. “The practice of labelling the media is aggravated by a lack of legal certainty and proportionality on the matter. I share the Venice Commission’s recent recommendation to the Russian authorities to abandon the special regime associated with ‘foreign agent’ status, including the related administrative and criminal sanctions.”

In April and May 2021, the Ministry of Justice declared independent news websites Meduza and VTimes as ‘foreign agents’ and in July, the authorities declared Proekt investigative media portal as ‘undesirable’, effectively banning its activities. In addition, five staff members of Proekt, and three other journalists from Open Media and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, were registered as ‘foreign agents’.  On a number of occasions, the Representative raised these and other similar cases with the authorities.

Ribeiro also pointed the authorities to her Communiqué “On the right of the media to freely collect, report and disseminate information, news and opinions, regardless of frontiers,” published in May 2021, in which she recommended the concerned participating States to “refrain from stigmatising, or labelling as ‘foreign agent’, media workers and media outlets coming from, or having (financial) ties to parties in, another participating State”.

The OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media observes media developments in all 57 OSCE participating States. She provides early warning on violations of freedom of expression and media freedom and promotes full compliance with OSCE media freedom commitments. Learn more at www.osce.org/fom, Twitter: @OSCE_RFoM and on www.facebook.com/osce.rfom.

Categories: Central Europe

OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (SMM) Daily Report 196/2021 issued on 23 August 2021

OSCE - Mon, 08/23/2021 - 19:01
SDGs SDGs:  16 - Peace, justice and strong institutions

Summary

  • In Donetsk region, between the evenings of 20 and 22 August, the SMM recorded 220 ceasefire violations, including 23 explosions. In the previous reporting period, it recorded 55 ceasefire violations in the region.
  • In Luhansk region, between the evenings of 20 and 22 August, the Mission recorded one explosion. In the previous reporting period, it recorded 92 ceasefire violations in the region.
  • Small-arms fire was assessed as directed at two SMM mini-unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) near government-controlled Novohryhorivka and near non-government-controlled Nova Marivka, Donetsk region.*
  • The Mission continued monitoring the disengagement areas near Stanytsia Luhanska, Zolote and Petrivske. It recorded ceasefire violations close to the disengagement area near Petrivske.
  • The SMM facilitated and monitored adherence to localized ceasefires to enable the operation of and repairs to critical civilian infrastructure.
  • The Mission continued following up on the situation of civilians, including at four entry-exit checkpoints and the corresponding checkpoints of the armed formations in Donetsk and Luhansk regions.
  • The SMM observed no change in the security situation in east and south-east Kherson region.
  • The Mission monitored a gathering and a religious service in Kyiv.
  • The SMM’s freedom of movement continued to be restricted, including at three checkpoints of the armed formations in southern Donetsk region. Its UAVs again experienced instances of GPS signal interference.*
Categories: Central Europe

Appointment of new judges to Georgia’s highest court lacked integrity and credibility, though procedure was generally well run: ODIHR assessment

OSCE - Mon, 08/23/2021 - 16:47

WARSAW, 23 August 2021 – Despite a number of positive legal changes to the nomination process for the judges of Georgia’s Supreme Court, today’s final monitoring report of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) shows that the stage of the appointment procedure carried out by parliament still lacks adequate safeguards, negatively affecting the integrity of the overall process.

“The decision to go ahead with an appointment process lacking in inclusivity and going against an earlier agreement to put it on hold risked its credibility at a time when public trust in the judiciary is already low,” said ODIHR Director Matteo Mecacci. “I call on the Georgian authorities to work on further improving the independence, accountability, and quality of the judicial system through a  broad reform process.”

The appointment process monitored by ODIHR last month took place in a challenging political environment and amidst public criticism of the High Council of Justice’s (HCJ) selection of nominees. The final stage of the procedure, which resulted in the appointment of six new judges, went ahead despite a political agreement in April to halt the nomination and appointment process, and in the absence of most of the opposition parties, the Georgian ombudsperson and several NGOs.

At the same time, the hearings of the candidates in parliament were generally well conducted, with challenging questions on a range of relevant topics. The hearings were also orderly and peaceful, and allowed public scrutiny of the process and the nominees. However, final voting took place without a plenary debate on the merits of the candidates, against the parliament’s own rules. In addition, the legislation still gives parliament full discretion to appoint or reject any nominee without any justification, contrary to international standards and good practices as well as previous recommendations made by ODIHR.

It should also be noted that all six appointed judges are men, even though 38 per cent of the candidate pool and two out of the nine nominees were women. This highlights the need for Georgia to take greater efforts to achieve gender balance and ensure that its justice system is inclusive.

ODIHR’s monitoring was carried out following an invitation from the Georgian ombudsperson. As well as monitoring all candidate interviews before the HCJ, the team monitored the hearings of the nominees by the parliament’s Legal Affairs Committee, and the final vote on the nominees in parliament.  The monitors followed ODIHR’s well-established principles of impartiality and objectivity, ensuring at the same time that they in no way interfered in the process itself.

Today’s report follows assessments of the appointments process to the Supreme Court published in September 2019, January 2020, and July 2021.

Categories: Central Europe

OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (SMM) Daily Report 195/2021 issued on 21 August 2021

OSCE - Sat, 08/21/2021 - 21:42
SDGs SDGs:  16 - Peace, justice and strong institutions

Summary

  • In Donetsk region, the SMM recorded 55 ceasefire violations, including six explosions. In the previous reporting period, it recorded 117 ceasefire violations in the region.
  • In Luhansk region, the Mission recorded 92 ceasefire violations, including 60 explosions. In the previous reporting period, it recorded 12 ceasefire violations.
  • Man killed due to the detonation of an explosive object in non-government-controlled Luhansk city and woman injured due to shelling in government-controlled Zolote-4/Rodina, Luhansk region.
  • The Mission continued monitoring the disengagement areas near Stanytsia Luhanska, Zolote and Petrivske. It recorded ceasefire violations close to the disengagement area near Zolote and inside and close to the disengagement area near Petrivske.
  • The SMM facilitated and monitored adherence to localized ceasefires to enable the operation of and repairs to critical civilian infrastructure.
  • The Mission continued following up on the situation of civilians, including at four entry-exit checkpoints and three corresponding checkpoints of the armed formations in Donetsk and Luhansk regions.
  • SMM monitored a gathering in Kyiv.
  • The SMM’s freedom of movement continued to be restricted.*
Categories: Central Europe

OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (SMM) Daily Report 194/2021 issued on 20 August 2021

OSCE - Fri, 08/20/2021 - 21:42
SDGs SDGs:  16 - Peace, justice and strong institutions

Summary

  • In Donetsk region, the SMM recorded 117 ceasefire violations, including 62 explosions. In the previous reporting period, it recorded 160 ceasefire violations in the region.
  • In Luhansk region, the Mission recorded 12 ceasefire violations, including seven explosions. In the previous reporting period, it recorded 475 ceasefire violations.
  • Woman injured due to small-arms fire in government-controlled Chermalyk, Donetsk region.
  • The Mission followed up on damage to two residential buildings in non-government-controlled Zolote-5/Mykhailivka, Luhansk region.
  • Explosions assessed as outgoing tank rounds close to an SMM patrol in government-controlled Krasnohorivka, Donetsk region.
  • The Mission continued monitoring the disengagement areas near Stanytsia Luhanska, Zolote and Petrivske. It recorded ceasefire violations close to the disengagement area near Zolote and inside the disengagement area near Petrivske.
  • The SMM facilitated and monitored adherence to localized ceasefires to enable the operation of and repairs to critical civilian infrastructure.
  • The Mission continued following up on the situation of civilians, including at four entry-exit checkpoints and three corresponding checkpoints of the armed formations in Donetsk and Luhansk regions.
  • SMM monitored gatherings in Kyiv demanding the release of people allegedly held in non-government-controlled areas of Donetsk and Luhansk regions.
  • The SMM’s freedom of movement continued to be restricted, including at two checkpoints of the armed formations in southern Donetsk region. Its unmanned aerial vehicles again experienced instances of GPS signal interference.*
Categories: Central Europe

Joint Message of OSCE CiO’s Personal Representatives on the International Day Commemorating Victims of Acts of Violence Based on Religion or Belief

OSCE - Fri, 08/20/2021 - 16:11

VIENNA, 20 August 2021 - Throughout this past year we have witnessed acts of violence and hate-motivated attacks based on religion or belief across the OSCE region. Jews, Muslims, minority Christian communities, and others were targeted and endured physical and verbal abuse and even murder, solely because of their religious identification. Despite the strength and resilience many participating States have demonstrated in managing the COVID-19 crisis, the pandemic and its physical distancing restrictions have led to the proliferation of online intolerance. This includes racist discourse and incitement against members of religious and belief communities, anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, and hate speech against Muslims. These developments should alarm us all.

OSCE participating States are obliged to respect the freedom of thought, conscience, religion, or belief, for all without distinction to ethnicity, sex, gender, language, or religion, as part of the OSCE’s comprehensive concept of protecting and promoting peace and security. In 1990 in Copenhagen, participating States reaffirmed their commitment to this right, which includes freedom to change one´s religion or belief and freedom to manifest one´s religion or belief, either alone or in a community with others, in public or in private, through worship, teaching, practice and observance. The participating States also stated that the exercise of these rights may be subject only to such restrictions as are prescribed by law and are consistent with international standards. In Budapest in 1994, they also expressed their will to foster a climate of mutual tolerance and respect between believers of different communities as well as between believers and non-believers.

On this day of commemoration, we strongly encourage all participating States to protect the right to religion or belief of all their citizens. Acts of violence, in particular hate speech and hate crimes on grounds of religion or belief, must be swiftly and loudly condemned. Victims must be supported. Perpetrators must be held accountable and punished. States must also promote a societal climate of tolerance and strengthen inclusion and respect for diversity.

We further encourage participating States to avail themselves of all resources available to meet these commitments, including the expert advice and capacity building offered by ODIHR. As the Personal Representatives of the Chairperson-in-Office for tolerance issues, we are also ready to assist.

Rabbi Andrew Baker, Personal Representative on Combating Anti-Semitism

Ambassador Mehmet Pacaci, Personal Representative on Combating Intolerance and Discrimination against Muslims

Professor Regina Polak, Personal Representative on Combating Racism, Xenophobia and Discrimination, also focusing on Intolerance and Discrimination against Christians and Members of Other Religions

Categories: Central Europe

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