The cease-fire on September 1, the cancellation of local elections in Mariupol and the opening of the first logistics center on the demarcation line in Donbas. The most interesting and important news are in our traditional weekly review.
The situation on Donbas territory under Ukrainian control
This week State Department of Statistics has repeatedly published reports on the economic situation in Donetsk region. One of such report demonstrates that production in the region has fallen by 48% comparing to last year. According to the State Statistics Service, during July 2015 industrial production has decreased by 36.0% compared to July 2014. At the same time, during July 2015 compared with the previous month, it has been recorded an increase in output of 6.8%.
In addition, there is a significant decline in agriculture. According to State Department of Statistics, the volume of agricultural production in Donetsk region (excluding the part of ATO area) during January-July 2015 compared with January-July 2014 has decreased by 29.9%. By August 1, 2015 the gross collection of grain and leguminous crops (excluding corn) in all categories of farms amounted 1.3 million tones (original recorded weight), which is 34.3% less than in August 1, 2014.
Such situation reflected on the export indicators of the region. Thus, the export of goods from Donetsk region to the European market has declined by 45% and amounted to USA 1.8405 billion, which is less than in January-June 2014 by 2.8 times.
However, at the same time, there are positive indicators. According to the State Statistics Service, the average salary in Donetsk region is 20% higher compared to other Ukrainian regions. Average nominal wage per full-time employee in Donetsk region (excluding the part of ATO area) in July 2015 was 5460 UAH.
Despite the higher wages, there is a decrease in purchasing power in the region. Experts associate it with food prices, which have increased by 37.5% since December 2014.
There is a complicated situation in the energy sector, which is experiencing acute shortage of fuel, in particular, it comes about the coal grade “A”. It can be extracted exclusively on the territory of Donetsk region, which beyond the Ukrainian control. In this regard, the leadership of the country decided to start importing coal from Russia.
Along with the worsening of economic situation, it should be mentioned that there is a complicated situation in the front-line cities, which are regularly under the shelling. Some people are still living there. For instance, there 6 residents in Peski village (near Donetsk). According to the OSCE, they are living without electricity, water and access to food.
On the eve of local elections, issue of its holding in Donbas becomes more acute. Thus, earlier this week the Central Election Commission has received the list of localities, where it is impossible to hold elections.
Later Zhebrivskyi Pavel – the head of Donetsk military and civil administration – stated about the impossibility of holding local elections in Mariupol and other front-line cities under Ukrainian control. The main argument against the holding of elections, according to the governor, is a threat to personal safety and health of people, especially those, who will be directly involved in the organization of the electoral process, and anti-Ukrainian propaganda. On Friday it became known that the CEC has adopted the recommendations of the governor and decided not to hold local elections in Mariupol. It was stated by some media referring to its sources in the commission.
Meanwhile, in Kiev, a few non-governmental organizations stated that it is necessary to ensure that IDPs have the right to vote in other communities. In order to do it, activists offer to make amendments to the Law on the local elections, namely, to the state register of voters and the Law on ensuring the rights and freedoms of internally displaced persons.
IDPs from Donbas
The number of internally displaced persons from Donbas and Crimea is still increasing. By August 25, 1.45 million IDPs were registered on the territory under Ukrainian control. Donetsk military and civil administration also decided to help such people. In order to do it, regional administration is going to take USD 2.1 billion, which were allocated for the financing of education and medicine on temporarily uncontrolled territories, from the state budget. Governor of the region has appealed to the Cabinet with such offer. He believes that the Government will listen to his arguments.
Meanwhile, the Cabinet decided to transfer all payments to pensioners and IDPs to “Oschadbank”.
Last week it was published the text of the Resolution, and the Pension Fund has to ensure the opening the accounts of IDPs within 10 days.
The demarcation line
On Friday the first logistics center in Donbas between “Zaitsevo” and zero line of demarcation on the Artemivsk direction was launched. The center includes asphalted area of almost 2 hectares with autonomous water and energy supply. There are a pharmacy and a department of “Oschadbank” with pensions and salaries payments. In the department there are 2 ATMs and currency exchange rates. The capacity of the institution – up to 5000 people a day. In addition, the center is equipped by midwifery centers, shopping arcades and sanitary zone. In its turn, Poroshenko promised that three centers would be opened along the contact line this week.
Negotiations of the Contact Group in Minsk
Last week there was a meeting of the Contact Group on Donbas in Minsk. An agreement on providing sustainable cease-fire throughout the contact line in Donbas by September 1 became a result of this event. Representatives of the parties also agreed to exchange information on the exact location of educational institutions near the demarcation line.
In addition, a subgroup of Economic Affairs of the Contact Group in Ukraine managed to restore rail traffic in two directions in Luhansk region. According to diplomats, such agreement provides an opportunity to establish coal supplies to Ukrainian power plants from the territory beyond the Ukrainian control.
In addition, the negotiators agreed to sign a treaty on the withdrawal of weapons of caliber less than 100 mm during the next meeting of the contact group. It is scheduled for 8 September. Another achievement of this event was an agreement in Minsk on providing representatives of the International Red Cross with access to prisoners in prison.
International activity around the situation in Donbas
The settlement of the conflict in Donbas is still on the agenda of world diplomacy. Thus, this week, Petro Poroshenko replied to a statement of his Polish colleague. He said that he excludes the possibility of “Minsk-3” and there is no alternative to Normandy Four.
In response to this statement, Polish Foreign Ministry stated that they see no possibility of joining the existing format of negotiations and statements of Poroshenko are considered as “not very pleasant.” In addition, Poland decided to convene the Security Council on the subject of Donbas. The Polish prime minister, who initiated this decision, stated about the deterioration of the situation in Ukraine, which could pose a threat to the security of Poland. The world leaders also did not disregard the conflict in the East of Ukraine. Thus, the media reported about telephone calls about the situation in Donbas between German Chancellor Angela Merkel and US President Barack Obama. It is known that during the conversation, Obama noted Ukraine’s progress in fulfilling its obligations under the peace plan.
Moreover, this week it was announced that the next meeting of the Normandy Four will take place in late September. It is expected that negotiations will be held before the UN General Assembly session.
The deterioration of the situation in Donbas has caused concern from the side of Greek Foreign Ministry. In order to ensure the security of the representatives of Greek diaspora in Eastern Ukraine, it was decided to resettle 190 people on Rhodes island. Most of the evacuees – are children and the elderly.
Meanwhile, region is still obtaining international aid. Last week humanitarian aid from the Red Cross was delivered to Avdeevka, Donetsk region. Residents of the front-line city would receive products and personal hygiene products. The set consists of two boxes per person. One of it includes hygiene products – shampoo, soap, toothbrush. The other – products.
According to the media reports, humanitarian aid from Britain, which is moving to Luhansk (uncontrolled territory), crossed the Ukrainian-Polish border and entered the territory of Ukraine. The humanitarian cargo includes clothing and footwear, weighing over 18 tons.