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OSCE Project Co-ordinator in Uzbekistan continues its series of training courses for female local representatives on strengthening leadership skills

OSCE - Thu, 05/20/2021 - 09:22

From 19 to  21 May 2021, the OSCE Project Co-ordinator Co-ordinator in Uzbekistan (PCUz) will conduct a third training course for 28 female representatives of local authorities from the Bukhara, Navoiy, Khorezm regions and the Republic of Karakalpakstan.

The course will focus on improving advocacy and leadership skills, gender issues and root causes, and an introduction to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). Increasing the knowledge on women’s human rights at local, regional and national levels, as well as State obligations to combat discrimination were also discussed. This seminar is the third in a series of training courses, which are conducted in all regions of Uzbekistan.

Malika Kadirkhanova, Chairperson of the Committee on Women and Gender Equality of the Senate opened the seminar stressed that: “One of the priorities of the country is strengthening women’s managerial roles and increasing the role of women in society”.

Hans-Ullrich Ihm, Acting OSCE Project Co-ordinator in Uzbekistan, in his opening remarks said that the OSCE Project Co-ordinator in Uzbekistan and the OSCE Institutions are ready to provide Uzbekistan with all the necessary support in its efforts to implement the National Strategy for Achieving Gender Equality in the Republic of Uzbekistan for 2020–2030. “Encouraging the active participation of women in leadership and decision-making is another of our priorities. We already provide capacity-building and mentoring programmes to support women entering politics.” 

This training course is part of a longstanding commitment of the OSCE Project Co-ordinator in Uzbekistan to assist the country in promoting women`s advancement in social, political and economic life within the society.  The series is part of the extra-budgetary project “Support to Women’s Committee of the Republic of Uzbekistan”, financially supported by the Governments of Finland and Norway.

Categories: Central Europe

OSCE Mission to Montenegro congratulates citizens on 15th anniversary of Independence Day

OSCE - Thu, 05/20/2021 - 09:13
487132 Marina Živaljević

The OSCE Mission to Montenegro congratulates the citizens of Montenegro on 15th anniversary of Independence Day on 21 May.

“The Mission continues to re-affirm partnerships and co-operation with Montenegrin institutions, and while the COVID-19 pandemic has challenged the way we work, it has not prevented the Mission from providing support to its partners,” said Siv-Katrine Leirtroe, Acting Head of Mission.

Leirtroe said that the Mission’s commitment in supporting Montenegro remains constant. “Through adapting to an online co-operation, the Mission is providing support to Parliament, the State Election Commission, the Police Directorate, the media and civil society organizations. We continue to provide assistance to institute reforms, and in further strengthening democratic development in line with the OSCE’s commitments and principles,” said Leirtroe.

Categories: Central Europe

Press Statement of Special Representative Grau after the regular Meeting of Trilateral Contact Group on 19 May 2021

OSCE - Wed, 05/19/2021 - 21:18

KYIV, 19 May 2021 — The Special Representative of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office in Ukraine and in the Trilateral Contact Group (TCG), Ambassador Heidi Grau, made the following statement to the press after the regular meetings of the TCG ‎and its Working Groups were held through video conferencing:

“The ceasefire violations remain on a high level. The increased use of heavy weapons deployed in violation of the withdrawal lines also causes serious concern. Moreover, the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (SMM) has recorded ceasefire violations in close vicinity and inside disengagement areas.

Continued restrictions to the freedom of movement of the OSCE SMM and targeting its unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are negatively affecting the implementation of the Mission's mandate.

Such trends do not contribute to confidence building between the sides.

Compliance with the ceasefire was in the focus of the discussions of the Security Working Group and the TCG. Participants in the meeting once again reiterated their commitment to the ceasefire. However, disagreement over the functioning of the coordination mechanism remained.

Procedural issues continued to dominate the discussions of the Political Working Group, preventing discussion on development of an action plan in full compliance with the Minsk agreements as tasked by the TCG.

The Humanitarian Working Group focused on removing obstacles to the simultaneous opening of new crossing points near Zolote and Shchastia of the Luhansk region. The discussions in the Working Group also focused on the mutual release and exchange of conflict-related detainees.

The Economic Working Group primarily considered water supply issues in certain areas of Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine (CADLR), particularly with regard to the territories serviced by the public utility enterprise 'Voda Donbassa'. In addition, the environmental topics, as well as pension payments and renewal of economic relations across the contact line were discussed. During the meeting, the question of protecting the property of Ukrainian citizens was also given consideration.” 

Categories: Central Europe

OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (SMM) Daily Report 114/2021 issued on 19 May 2021

OSCE - Wed, 05/19/2021 - 20:29
SDGs SDGs:  16 - Peace, justice and strong institutions

Summary

  • In Donetsk region, the SMM recorded 196 ceasefire violations, including 67 explosions. In the previous reporting period, it recorded 52 ceasefire violations in the region.
  • In Luhansk region, the Mission recorded 37 ceasefire violations, including eight explosions. In the previous reporting period, it recorded 50 ceasefire violations in the region.
  • The SMM followed up on reports of a boy who died due to a mine explosion near Slovianoserbsk, Luhansk region and a man and a boy injured due to shelling in non-government-controlled Donetsk city.
  • The SMM saw damage to a building and an inhabited house in Donetsk city.
  • Small-arms fire was assessed as targeting three SMM mini-unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) near Hranitne and Oleksandrivka, Donetsk region and Dachne, Luhansk region.*
  • The Mission continued monitoring the disengagement areas near Stanytsia Luhanska, Zolote and Petrivske. It recorded a ceasefire violation inside the latter area.
  • The Mission observed weapons in violation of withdrawal lines on both sides of the contact line in Donetsk region and in a non-government-controlled area of Luhansk region.
  • The Mission facilitated and monitored adherence to localized ceasefires to enable the maintenance and operation of critical civilian infrastructure.
  • The SMM 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 checkpoint of the armed formations near Huselshchykove, in southern Donetsk region, and at a border crossing point and a railway station near non-government-controlled Voznesenivka (formerly Chervonopartyzansk) in Luhansk region. Its UAVs again experienced multiple instances of GPS signal interference.*
Categories: Central Europe

OSCE Conflict Cycle Seminar: inclusivity in conflict prevention and resolution efforts crucial

OSCE - Wed, 05/19/2021 - 17:07

VIENNA, 19 May 2021 — Enhancing conflict prevention and resolution efforts through an inclusive ‘whole-of-OSCE approach’ was the topic of an online Conflict Cycle Seminar for delegations of OSCE participating States and Partners for Co-operation hosted on 17-19 May by the Swedish OSCE Chairpersonship, in collaboration with the OSCE Secretariat.

This year marks the 10th Anniversary of the OSCE Ministerial Council Decision No. 3/11 on ‘Elements of the Conflict Cycle’ which has been instrumental in strengthening the Organization’s capacities for early warning, conflict prevention and resolution, crisis management, as well as post-conflict rehabilitation and peacebuilding.

The event brought together over 200 participants and covered topics from the role of women and civil society in early warning and peace processes to ways to enhance the OSCE’s capabilities to address root causes of tensions and instability, in particular through the OSCE field operations.

In the opening session, OSCE Chairperson-in-Office, Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde, Deputy Minister Marcin Przydacz from the incoming Polish chairpersonship, OSCE Secretary General Helga Maria Schmid, Ms. Ekaterine Gamakharia, from the Cultural Humanitarian Fund “Sukhumi” and UN Assistant Secretary-General for Europe, Central Asia and the Americas, Mr. Miroslav Jenča, underlined the need to work jointly to identify how to best employ and strengthen the existing toolbox. The importance of implementing the women, peace and security agenda was addressed by all.

“To build confidence in peace efforts, we need to advance the women, peace and security agenda and ensure women a meaningful and effective engagement in all stages of conflict resolution and peacebuilding. Input from civil society helps us take better decisions”, said OSCE Chairperson-in-Office, Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde, opening the seminar.

OSCE Secretary General Helga Maria Schmid said: “Conflicts are rarely one-dimensional - most of them are rooted in issues like political polarization, socio-economic disparities, environmental degradation, and deficiencies in the rule of law and the security sector. To live up to OSCE principle and commitments, these root causes must be addressed comprehensively and inclusively, by building and strengthening the relevant institutional capacities, and building public trust in such institutions.”

A side event co-organized by the OSCE Chairpersonship, together with the Permanent Delegation of Finland to the OSCE and the Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation, focused on how multilateral conflict cycle instruments can be enhanced through the inclusion of civil society actors and women peacebuilders.

“The exclusion of women from peace and transition processes means that women’s specific perspectives and priorities are not considered. Female participation needs involvement of local women and women’s rights organizations throughout the conflict cycle,” said Petra Tötterman Andorff, Secretary General of the Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation.

Categories: Central Europe

Stockholm Media Freedom Conference provided opportunity to join forces to address challenges of independent media

OSCE - Wed, 05/19/2021 - 16:57

STOCKHOLM/VIENNA, 19 May 2021 — During the Stockholm Media Freedom conference, participants addressed some of the most pressing issues facing democratic societies today. Among the topics were safety of journalists and the role of independent media in democratic processes — all with a view on how OSCE participating States can increase public trust in independent media through the implementation of OSCE commitments. The situation of female journalists was especially highlighted throughout the conference. 

The Swedish Chairpersonship and the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media hosted the event, which took place on 18 and 19 May. In her opening remarks, OSCE Chairperson-in-Office Ann Linde highlighted worrying trends for media freedom in the OSCE region and globally, including the security situation of women in the media.

“Threats and violence against journalists are unacceptable and disproportionately target women. Ensuring the right to freedom of expression for all, regardless of gender, is a fundamental human rights issue,” she said. “It is essential to address media freedom in the larger context of human rights and comprehensive security, which are areas of immediate and legitimate concern to all OSCE participating States.” 

The conference brought together journalists, civil society organizations, government representatives and academicians from all of OSCE’s participating States. 

In her closing remarks, OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Teresa Ribeiro welcomed the interesting discussion during the conference on several issues regarding media freedom, including the prevailing rise in anti-media sentiment in the OSCE region.

“This anti-media sentiment worries me greatly, as it undermines one of the fundamental pillars of our societies. Especially in these uncertain times, we need the media more than ever to bring us the information we depend on. We need transparent exchange of ideas and information in a pluralistic media landscape, instead of distrust and a continuous repletion of the same news in our own small bubbles.”

The conference on “Increasing Public Trust in Independent Media through the Implementation of OSCE Commitments” was held online with live streaming from Stockholm.

Categories: Central Europe

OSCE parliamentarians, delegations discuss evidence-based lawmaking to prevent and combat violence against women

OSCE - Wed, 05/19/2021 - 16:36
Communication and Media Relations Section Alexandra Taylor

Innovative approaches to evidence-based lawmaking to prevent and combat violence against women was the topic of an event organized by the OSCE Secretariat’s Gender Issues Programme, the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) and the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly on 19 May 2021.

Parliamentarians and delegates to the OSCE from participating States as well as Asian and Mediterranean Partners for Co-operation exchanged good practices, lessons learned and innovations. Experts from the OSCE Secretariat and ODIHR presented OSCE tools and resources, including ODIHR’s support to law making processes and developing legal reviews of legislation on violence against women, and the OSCE Secretariat’s guide on How to Use Survey Data to Prevent and Combat Violence against Women and Girls.

Liliana Palihovici, Special Representative of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office on Gender moderated the event. OSCE Secretary General Helga Maria Schmid, ODIHR Director Matteo Mecacci and Canadian MP and OSCE PA Special Representative on Gender Issues Hedy Fry provided opening remarks.

OSCE participating States are committed to preventing and combating violence against women and girls and democratic lawmaking. Ministerial Council Decisions in 2005, 2014 and 2018 call on OSCE participating States to improve national legislation, policies and practices to combat violence, support women who experience violence and take measures to prevent it. The OSCE PA Resolution in 2018 calls on OSCE participating States to pass legislation consistent with international norms and standards that addresses domestic and sexual violence, harassment, including workplace harassment and abuse of authority.

Categories: Central Europe

Project Co-Ordinator in Uzbekistan holds training on international human rights standards and physical accessibility of courts and polling stations for persons with disabilities

OSCE - Wed, 05/19/2021 - 16:29

The OSCE Project Co-Ordinator in Uzbekistan (PCUz) organized a series of training courses for civil society representatives and members from the Association of Disabled People of Uzbekistan on topics related to the physical accessibility to courts and polling stations of persons with disabilities. The courses started online on 17 May 2021. The series will be conducted through 10 June.

More than 30 representatives of the Association of Disabled People from several regions of Uzbekistan are attending the seminars conducted in both Russian and Uzbek.

Over the course of the seminar, participants will enhance their knowledge on several issues, such as the right to a fair trial for persons with disabilities, methodology of conducting public control by civil society representatives, data collection, data analysis and report writing, with the aim to contribute to the implementation of OSCE human dimension commitments.

During his opening speech, Mathieu Lemoine, OSCE Senior Project Officer, drew attention to the increasing importance the OSCE has given to topics related to disability rights in an effort to further the inclusion of persons with disabilities, and vulnerable groups in general, into the political, public, economic and social life of the country. “One of the goals of the PCUz in this sphere is to support Uzbekistan in its efforts to ratify the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities; we welcome the speech of the President of Uzbekistan, Shavkat Mirziyoev, at the 46th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council when he announced the future ratification,” said Lemoine.

The training courses are organized within the framework of the PCUz project “Support to the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in Uzbekistan.”

Categories: Central Europe

OSCE concludes training course on sustained field operational capacity for Tajikistan’s border officers in Spitamen district

OSCE - Wed, 05/19/2021 - 15:53
487165 Munira Shoinbekova, OSCE Programme Office in Dushanbe

Twenty-nine officers of Border Troops of the State Committee for National Security of Tajikistan (Border Troops) completed an EU-funded course on sustained field operational capacity on 18 May in the Special Border Unit in the Spitamen district. The OSCE Programme Office in Dushanbe (OSCE) in co-operation with Tajikistan’s Border Troops organized the training course.

The four-week course combined both practical and classroom-based sessions, which helped participants refine their skills on how to react to the threats emanating from outside the state borders and co-ordinate their joint operations to efficiently protect the state border. Modules included tactical patrolling, risk assessment, radio communications, patrol report writing, survival techniques specific to summer and winter, national border regulations, gender awareness and first aid related to battlefield injuries. National legislation and international human rights commitments pertaining to the rights and treatment of detainees and refugees were also discussed.

Colonel Shamsov Alovatsho, Deputy Head of the Main Department for Combat Training of Border Troops and Antoni Mis, OSCE Project Manager on Stabilization of Tajikistan’s Southern Border Region with Afghanistan, awarded participants with certificates of achievements.

At the closing ceremony, Colonel Shamsov noted that the co-operation between the OSCE and Border Troops has brought many positive results in strengthening border security and management in Tajikistan.

This training course is part of a project funded through the European Union’s Foreign Policy Instrument. The project aims to increase the professional capacity of both Tajikistan’s Border Troops and Afghan Border Services to better tackle illicit activities in border areas. The project also aims to strengthen the capacity of the Committee on Emergency Situations and Civil Defense to respond to natural disasters in border regions.

Categories: Central Europe

OSCE launches training seminars on Environmental Impact Assessment in Kazakhstan

OSCE - Wed, 05/19/2021 - 13:29

An OSCE-supported training seminar on the development and implementation of an effective Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) system in Kazakhstan in line with the Espoo Convention started on 19 May 2021.

EIA is an internationally recognized instrument that helps to integrate environmental and health considerations in planning and decision-making and facilitates the process of transition to a green economy. 

The four-week online seminar, divided into two-day training courses every week, will be conducted through 16 June and involve representatives from the Ministry of Ecology, Geology and Natural Resources, regional ecology departments from across the country and NGOs. Topics will include theoretical aspects of the EIA and practical case studies, where participants will be able to analyze specific cases vis-à-vis their compliance with the Espoo Convention.

Some 60 participants attended the 19 and 20 May sessions, which were aimed to increase knowledge of national stakeholders about the procedures and benefits of effective implementation of an EIA.

The OSCE Programme Office in Nur-Sultan organized the event in partnership with the United Nations Economic Commission of Europe (UNECE) and the Partnership for Action on Green Economy (PAGE).  The event supports the Office’s long-term efforts to promote green growth and sustainable development principles to strengthen environmental security.

Categories: Central Europe

OSCE supports training webinar on protection of businesses and investors from corruption in Kazakhstan

OSCE - Wed, 05/19/2021 - 10:38
486937

An OSCE-supported half-day online training webinar on the protection of businesses and investors concluded on 14 May 2021 in Nur-Sultan.

The OSCE Programme Office in Nur-Sultan organized the event in partnership with the Anti-corruption Agency of Kazakhstan and the National entrepreneurs chamber Atameken.

Some 20 representatives of the National entrepreneurs’ chamber Atameken, the Anti-corruption Agency, and private entrepreneurs attended the event and focussed on practical solutions to protect businesses and investors.

Participants discussed best anti-corruption practices in the commercial sector and the important role of the state in suppressing illegal interference in private business.

An OECD anti-corruption expert told the audience about the indicators that assess the effectiveness of the country's anti-corruption measures and gave a number of practical recommendations to identify bottlenecks and eliminate shortcomings.

An expert from the National entrepreneurs’ chamber Atameken shared the latest developments related to the Protecting Business and Investments project, which aims to strengthen a favorable investment climate, and increase business and investors’ confidence in government agencies through anti-corruption support of entrepreneurs.

The training webinar is part of the Programme Office’s multi-year efforts to promote good governance by focussing on anti-corruption activities in Kazakhstan.

Categories: Central Europe

Social re-use of confiscated assets focus of OSCE training courses for civil society organizations in Albania and North Macedonia

OSCE - Wed, 05/19/2021 - 10:32
486928

Strengthening the involvement of civil society organizations in the social re-use of assets confiscated from organized crime was the focus of two OSCE training courses held, respectively, in Albania on 28 and 29 April 2021 and in North Macedonia on 17 and 18 May 2021.

The two-day courses were organized by the OSCE’s Transnational Threats Department (TNTD) and the Office of the Co-ordinator of OSCE Economic and Environmental Activities (OCEEA), with LIBERA, a civil society organization. The courses gathered representatives from eleven civil society organizations from Albania and eight from North Macedonia.

Participants learned how returning confiscated assets to communities can contribute to restoring confidence in the rule of law and hinder organized crime and corruption from thriving. They also explored ways that these assets can benefit societies through different forms of re-use, such as social enterprises, shelters for victims, agricultural co-operative companies, and social spaces for youth, among others. They also discussed the importance of raising civil society organizations’ awareness and building their capacities to closely collaborate with governments to effectively implement social re-use practices.

The training courses were supported through a TNTD/OCEEA extra-budgetary project, “Strengthening the fight against transnational organized crime in South-Eastern Europe through improved regional co-operation in asset seizure, confiscation, management and re-use,” which is funded by the United States Department of State, Italy, Germany and the United Kingdom.

Categories: Central Europe

ODIHR opens election observation mission in Armenia

OSCE - Wed, 05/19/2021 - 08:46

YEREVAN, 19 May 2021 – The OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) today opened an election observation mission for the 20 June early parliamentary elections in Armenia, following an invitation from the national authorities.

The mission is led by Eoghan Murphy and consists of 11 international experts from nine OSCE countries, who will be based in Yerevan.  In addition, ODIHR has requested to send 24 long-term observers, to be deployed throughout the country from 26 May.

The mission will assess to what extent the elections are held in line with international obligations and standards for democratic elections, including the commitments agreed to by all OSCE countries, as well as with national legislation. Observers will look closely at the legal framework and its implementation, and will follow campaign activities, the work of the election administration and relevant government bodies, including voter registration, and the resolution of election disputes. Media monitoring will also form an integral part of the observation.

ODIHR also plans to request 250 short-term observers from OSCE participating States to follow events on election day. However, this remains dependent on developments in connection with the COVID-19 pandemic, including health concerns, travel and border restrictions across the OSCE region, and related regulations within Armenia.

Meetings with representatives of the state authorities, political parties, as well as with representatives from the judiciary, civil society and the media will take place throughout the observation. On election day itself, the ODIHR mission will join efforts with a delegation from the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly (OSCE PA).

An interim report will be published to update the public and the media during the course of the observation. The day after the elections, a statement of preliminary findings will be presented at a press conference. A final report summing up the observation of the entire electoral process will be published approximately two months after the election process has ended.

Further information on ODIHR’s election observation activities in Armenia is available here: https://www.osce.org/odihr/elections/armenia 

Media contacts:

Ivan Godársky, media analyst: ivan.godarsky@odihr.am and +37491 062084

or

Katya Andrusz, ODIHR Spokesperson, at katya.andrusz@odihr.pl and +48 609 522 266  

Categories: Central Europe

OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (SMM) Daily Report 113/2021 issued on 18 May 2021

OSCE - Tue, 05/18/2021 - 20:38
SDGs SDGs:  16 - Peace, justice and strong institutions

Summary

  • In Donetsk region, the SMM recorded 52 ceasefire violations, including 17 explosions. In the previous 24 hours, it recorded 723 ceasefire violations in the region.
  • In Luhansk region, the Mission recorded 50 ceasefire violations, including 15 explosions. In the previous 24 hours, it recorded 116 ceasefire violations in the region.
  • The SMM followed up on reports of a man who died due to shelling on 8 May in the Trudivski area of non-government-controlled Donetsk city’s Petrovskyi District.
  • An SMM long-range unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) was damaged in an emergency landing due to dual GPS signal interference.*
  • The Mission continued monitoring the disengagement areas near Stanytsia Luhanska, Zolote and Petrivske. SMM long-range UAVs spotted people inside the latter two disengagement areas.
  • The Mission facilitated and monitored adherence to localized ceasefires to enable the operation of critical civilian infrastructure.
  • The SMM continued following up on the situation of civilians, including at five entry-exit checkpoints and four corresponding checkpoints of the armed formations in Donetsk and Luhansk region.
  • An SMM long-range UAV spotted a cargo train travelling north-west during daytime in an area adjacent to the border with the Russian Federation, in Donetsk region.
  • The Mission’s freedom of movement continued to be restricted, including at checkpoints of the armed formations near Bezimenne, Zaichenko and Nova Marivka, all in southern Donetsk region. Its UAVs again experienced multiple 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 18 May 2021

OSCE - Tue, 05/18/2021 - 19:43

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) and a First Responder.[1] 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 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. During this reporting period, the vaccination process provided by the host country medical system continues on a voluntary basis. By now, 73 per cent of OM staff have received both jabs of the vaccine.

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 8,034 to 9,264 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 805 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.

Persons in military-style outfits

During the reporting period, the number of persons in military-style outfits crossing the border was 18, compared to nine last week; six persons crossed into the Russian Federation while 12 persons crossed into Ukraine. These individuals crossed the border on foot.

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, one family was observed crossing into the Russian Federation and another family was observed crossing into Ukraine, compared to the previous reporting period when four families were observed crossing into the Russian Federation and one family was observed crossing 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 (419 compared to 349 observed during the previous week). There were 209 buses bound for the Russian Federation and 210 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.

Trucks

During the reporting period, the OTs observed an increase in the overall number of trucks crossing the border at both BCPs (741 compared to 527 during the previous reporting week); 428 at the Gukovo BCP and 313 at the Donetsk BCP, 405 of these trucks crossed into the Russian Federation, and 336 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” plates.

The OTs also continued to observe tanker trucks crossing the border in both directions. During the reporting period, the OTs observed an increase in the overall number of tanker trucks crossing the border at both BCPs (53 compared to 45 during the previous reporting 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 94 to 141. Of the total number of trucks scanned, 140 trucks (99 per cent) were bound for Ukraine, and remaining one (one per cent) crossed into the Russian Federation.  

Minivans

The OM continued to observe passenger and cargo minivans[2] 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 a slight increase in the overall number of minivans crossing the border at both BCPs (135 compared to 133 observed during the previous week); 83 crossed into the Russian Federation and another 52 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 32 occasions; the OTs assessed that 16 trains were travelling to the Russian Federation and the remaining same number 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, Lithuanian and Czech Republic licence plates; they also observed a vehicle with “DPR” plates.

On 12 May at 06:35, the OT at the Gukovo BCP observed a police car with two officers inside arriving at the BCP from the Russian Federation side and parking at the customs control area. The car was white in colour, with blue stripes on the sides and an inscription “Service” (in Russian).  No one was observed leaving or approaching the car. The car left the BCP towards the Russian Federation at 06:51.

On 12 May at 15:51, the OT at the Donetsk BCP observed an ambulance with “LPR” plates and three persons on board, arriving at the BCP from Ukraine. After undergoing border and customs control procedures, the ambulance crossed the border into the Russian Federation.

On 12 May at 14:30, the OT at the Donetsk BCP observed a black passenger car type Mercedes with Russian Federation licence plates with a flashing light (turned off), arriving at the BCP from the Russian Federation side. Two men in business attire entered the BCP’s main building and after a short while returned to the BCP’s control area. At 14:40, a grey SUV and two minivans, black and white in colour, all with Russian Federation licence plates, arrived at the BCP from the Russian Federation side and parked on the left side of the main building.  Approximately ten individuals in civilian clothing waited outside the vehicles in the parking lot. At 16:45, the OT observed a group of four civilian vehicles accompanied by a traffic police car, all bearing "Republic of South Ossetia" plates, arriving at the BCP from Ukraine. After undergoing border and customs control procedures, all the vehicles, including the previously arrived ones, crossed the border into the Russian Federation at 17:14.

On 13 May at 05:20, the OT at the Donetsk BCP observed an ambulance with “LPR” plates arriving at the BCP from Ukraine. The OT observed the driver and one medical personnel on board. After undergoing border and customs control procedures, the ambulance crossed into the Russian Federation.

On 13 May at 09:50, the OT at the Donetsk BCP observed an ambulance with “LPR” plates and the inscription “Urgent Medical Help” and “Pediatric” (in Russian), entering the BCP from the Russian Federation side. The OT observed the driver and two persons on board. After undergoing border and customs control procedures, the ambulance left for Ukraine.

On 14 May at 00:30, the OT at the Donetsk BCP observed a truck and a white minivan with “LPR” plates, arriving at the BCP from Ukraine The vehicles had the sign “LPR Post” displayed on the sides (in Russian). After undergoing border and customs control procedures, the vehicles crossed into the Russian Federation at 01:09.

On 14 May at 06:38, the OT at the Donetsk BCP observed a white minivan with Russian Federation licence plates and an inscription “Ritual Cortege” on the side (in Russian), arriving at the BCP from Ukraine. The driver and one person were observed on the board. After undergoing border and customs control procedures, the vehicle crossed the border into the Russian Federation. The OT was unable to notice any other details from its position.

The truck with “LPR” plates carrying four jet engines (the main part of the engine, similar to the Klimov VK-1 and the Rolls-Royce Nene jet engines), observed by the OT at the Gukovo BCP on 25 April and reported in recent Weekly Updates is still parked at the BCP’s customs control area facing in the direction of the Russian Federation.

For trends and figures at a glance covering the period from 13 April 2021 to 18 May 2021, please see the attachment here.

[1] First responders are OSCE staff or Mission members deployed for a short period of time.

[2] 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 alarmed by raids and blocking of Tut.by media portal in Belarus

OSCE - Tue, 05/18/2021 - 18:06

VIENNA, 18 May 2021 – The OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Teresa Ribeiro, today expressed her concerns regarding developments around Belarusian online media outlet, Tut.by. The authorities blocked the outlet’s website and raided its editorial office, its regional branches and the homes of several of its staff members.

According to reports, representatives of the Department of Financial Investigations started the raids this morning and seized equipment and documents in the course of a criminal investigation on tax evasion charges. The homes of the Editor-in-chief, Marina Zolotova, Deputy Editor-in-chief, Maxim Gaiko and journalist, Elena Tolkacheva, among others, were also searched. It was also reported that Zolotova and Tolkacheva were taken in for interrogation.

In addition, upon the General Prosecutor Office’s demand, the Ministry of Information blocked Tut.by’s website and its copies, reportedly for alleged violations of media legislation.

“Today’s developments around Tut.by, one of the most prominent independent media portals in Belarus, and its journalists again underscores the extremely alarming situation regarding media freedom, access to information and safety of journalists in the country,” Ribeiro said. “Blocking its entire website, which is an extreme measure, and disproportionately interfering with media actors’ activities only further contributes  to these ongoing concerns.”

Ribeiro said that she will continue to closely follow developments in the country and reiterated her calls on the authorities to reverse the dangerous trend negatively affecting media freedom and freedom of expression in Belarus.

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 PA Members share lessons learned on the effective prosecution, rehabilitation and reintegration of FTFs and their families

OSCE - Tue, 05/18/2021 - 16:33

COPENHAGEN, 18 May 2021 – The challenge of repatriating, prosecuting, rehabilitating and reintegrating foreign terrorist fighters was in focus today at a hearing organized by the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly’s Ad Hoc Committee on Countering Terrorism (CCT). Concerned particularly with the possibility of repatriating nationals detained in conflict-affected areas following the territorial defeat of the Islamic State terrorist group, the event examined the experience of Kazakhstan as a case study for lessons learned and good practices.

In an effort to help inform other OSCE participating States about effective prosecution and rehabilitation strategies, authorities of Kazakhstan shared their experiences with the complexities of planning and conducting repatriation operations from Syria and Iraq, including the challenges of rehabilitating FTFs and their family members.

In his opening remarks, CCT Chair Reinhold Lopatka (Austria) said that terrorism and violent extremism represent multi-dimensional challenges that require multi-dimensional responses, as well as strong international networking and co-operation among governments. “The effective prosecution, rehabilitation and reintegration of ‘foreign terrorist fighters’ are no exception in this regard,” he said. “FTFs continue to pose complex security challenges to many of our countries: while some have returned home and faced prosecution, many more are stranded in Syria and Iraq.”Lopatka noted that in his recent visit to the region, he witnessed the dire situation first-hand, with thousands of people with suspected links to ISIL and other terrorist groups being held in precarious conditions and overcrowded camps for years, including many women and children. “This situation is clearly unbearable in the longer run, and I think it represents a ticking-bomb for the entire OSCE region. Duly co-ordinated international support efforts in countries like Syria and Iraq, as well as targeted prevention and de-radicalization campaigns in Europe, should be our top priorities in the coming months and years,” Lopatka said.

Briefing the PA on Kazakhstan’s experience with FTFs were Sarzhanov Kairat, Director of the International Security Foreign Affairs Ministry of the Republic of Kazakhstan; Bauyrzhan Bakirov, Deputy Chair of the Committee on Religious Affairs of the Ministry of Information and Social Development of the Republic of Kazakhstan; Yulia Ovechkina, Deputy Chair of the Committee for the Protection of Children’s Rights at the Ministry of Education and Science of the Republic of Kazakhstan; and Bibigul Munaitpasova, Head of the Department of the Committee of the Penitentiary System at the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Republic of Kazakhstan.

The Kazakhstani representatives described the challenges of balancing the needs for law enforcement and prevention with the long-term strategies of reintegration and rehabilitation. They also provided background to the CCT members on the political and diplomatic groundwork required for such repatriations, the decision-making process related to the identification and choice of persons to be repatriated, and the evidence and charges applied to prosecute FTFs once repatriated.

Particular focus was placed on addressing concerns that some returnees may commit other violent acts, or participate in recruitment and incite others to take part in terrorist activities. Ensuring the appropriate treatment of these individuals, including prosecution, deradicalization and reintegration into society, is crucial not only in properly addressing their individual cases in compliance with international standards and obligations, but also in preventing future attacks and promoting internal reconciliation, it was stressed.

In the discussion, CCT members shared relevant experiences from their own countries, focusing in particular on prosecution of FTFs, rehabilitation of women and children and on the social perception towards returnees. It was also emphasized that while governments have an obligation to prevent and counter terrorism, the measures they apply in addressing challenges posed by FTFs must be human rights-compliant, proportionate and fully in line with the rule of law framework.

Closing the meeting, Secretary General Roberto Montella thanked the Kazakhstani authorities for sharing their experience and best practices. “It is important to work both bilaterally and multilaterally, including through parliamentary assemblies, to develop joint responses. In this context, I am proud that the OSCE PA provides a platform to learn from each other and will continue to promote parliamentary leadership on this topic of convergence among all participating States,” he said.

The Hearing was organized with the support of the OSCE Programme Office in Nur-Sultan, represented during the meeting by Dr. Volker Frobarth.

For more information on the work of the OSCE PA’s Ad Hoc Committee on Countering Terrorism, please click here. 

Categories: Central Europe

ODIHR observers to Armenia’s early parliamentary elections to hold press conference on Wednesday

OSCE - Tue, 05/18/2021 - 14:55

YEREVAN, 18 May 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 forthcoming early parliamentary elections in Armenia on Wednesday, 19 May.

NB Due to social distancing requirements, only 25 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 prioritised 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 (registration details below)

Who: 

  • Mr. Eoghan Murphy, Head of the ODIHR election observation mission

When: 

  • 11:00 local time (GMT +4) on 19 May 2021

Where:

  • Marriott Hotel, 1 Amiryan Street, Room Tigran Mets, Yerevan.

Registration:

  • No registration is necessary if you are attending the press conference in person, but only questions from journalists will be taken
Categories: Central Europe

Twenty Tajik border officers complete the second round of OSCE-EU organized operational planning course in Khujand city

OSCE - Tue, 05/18/2021 - 08:57
486787 Munira Shoinbekova, OSCE Programme Office in Dushanbe

Border officers of Tajikistan’s Border Troops completed a three-week training course on operational planning on 13 May in Khujand city. The OSCE Programme Office in Dushanbe in co-operation with the Border Troops organized the course which was funded by the European Union.

The training course enhanced twenty Tajik border officer’s skills in operational planning, briefing techniques, information and risk management, gender awareness and command and control skills during the course. The officers learned how to collect data on case/situation, read topographic maps, and deal with cases of mass border crossing and provocation at the border.  

Colonel Shuhrat Yorov, Deputy Head of the State Border Protection Directorate of Tajikistan’s State Committee for National Security noted the co-operation between the Border Troops and the OSCE Programme Office has been beneficial for the country’s ​​border security. He stressed that capacity-building activities, such as this training course, “help improve their skills in analyzing the situation at the border, plan their patrol, combat activities and make timely decisions.”

Marodali Marodaliev, Training Officer with the Stabilization of Tajikistan’s Southern Border Region with Afghanistan project said that the course was designed for officers of the headquarters of Tajikistan’s Border Troops. He noted that what made it practical was that it was based on addressing difficulties that officers encountered in their day-to-day job.

This was the second in a series of nine training courses within the project on the Stabilization of Tajikistan’s southern border region with Afghanistan, funded through the European Union’s Foreign Policy Instrument. The project aims to increase the professional capacity of Tajik and Afghan Border Services to better tackle illicit activities in border areas.

Categories: Central Europe

OSCE SMM Spot Report 14/2021: Long-range unmanned aerial vehicle damaged in emergency landing due to dual GPS signal interference

OSCE - Mon, 05/17/2021 - 19:14
SDGs SDGs:  16 - Peace, justice and strong institutions

On 17 May, the SMM was conducting an announced SMM long-range unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) flight. The UAV had taken off from its base in government-controlled Stepanivka (54km north of Donetsk) at 12:00 and had immediately experienced dual GPS signal interference, assessed as caused by jamming, which continued uninterrupted for the remainder of the flight. At 12:55, near Bakhmutske (government-controlled, 77km north of Donetsk), the SMM enabled the Emergency Control Mode over the aircraft and commanded it to return to base in Stepanivka due to the persistent dual GPS signal interference.

At 13:45, due to the risk of a loss of spatial control, the SMM conducted an emergency landing of the UAV in a field about 200m north-east of its designated landing spot at Stepanivka. As a result of the impact, the aircraft sustained damage to its tailfin and rear fuselage. The SMM retrieved the UAV. Long-range UAV flights are now suspended pending a technical assessment, including to identify any additional damage to the aircraft.

The Mission again highlights that since 21 March 2021 the SMM’s long-range UAVs have been experiencing increased levels of GPS signal interference on take-off and landing, affecting both of their GPS receivers, in areas near their base in Stepanivka (See SMM Spot Reports of 7 April 2021, 9 April 2021, 24 April 2021 and 6 May 2021). The Mission notes that, in each case, the source of GPS signal interference could have originated from anywhere within the radius of tens of kilometres from the UAVs’ positions.

The SMM yet again notes that OSCE Permanent Council Decision No. 1117 specifies that the SMM shall have safe and secure access throughout Ukraine. Unrestricted and unconditional access to all areas is essential to ensure effective monitoring and reporting of the security situation, the ceasefire, the withdrawal of weapons, demining, as well as disengagement. The mandate also tasks the Mission to report on any restrictions of its freedom of movement or other impediments to fulfilment of its mandate.

These incidents hinder the Mission’s ability to conduct effective monitoring and reporting of the security situation in line with its mandate. Long-range UAVs are an essential part of SMM operations, especially at night and in areas where the Mission’s monitoring and freedom of movement are restricted. While the SMM cannot identify the precise source of jamming, it has observed the presence of jamming equipment on both sides of the contact line.

Categories: Central Europe

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