On April 24, 2019, President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin signed a Decree “On the definition for humanitarian purposes of categories of persons entitled to apply for citizenship of the Russian Federation under simplified procedure”. According to the document, such an opportunity was provided to persons permanently residing in the territories of certain areas of Donetsk and Lugansk regions of Ukraine. At the same time, there is no requirement to renounce citizenship of Ukraine.
Commenting on the decision, Vladimir Putin stressed that this measure has a humanitarian nature and is aimed at protecting the rights of people living in the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics in the context of armed aggression and blockade imposed by Ukraine. “We have no intention to cause problems for the new Ukrainian government. But it wouldn’t be right in terms of human rights to tolerate a situation in which people residing in the territory of the Donetsk and Lugansk Republics are completely deprived of nearly all civil rights,” the President of the Russian Federation said.
By its actions, official Kiev, in violation of the Constitution and the legislation, follows a discriminatory policy, infringes on and violates the rights and freedoms of about three million residents of Donbass. For five years now, aggressive hostilities have been conducted against them, cases of illegal detention and the use of unlawful methods of investigation have been widespread. Since the beginning of the armed conflict, the blockade is becoming even worse: financial, economic, transport and other restrictions and obstacles are being introduced to prevent citizens from receiving social benefits. This leads to the further development of centrifugal trends and does not contribute to the peaceful resolution of the conflict.
The humanitarian initiative of Vladimir Putin provoked a negative reaction from the Ukrainian side. In his statement, President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko called the publication of the Decree Russia’s interference in the internal affairs of an independent state, as well as a gross violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence. In his opinion, the Kremlin made another aggressive step and is preparing to annex Donbass. The team of Vladimir Zelensky, the winner of the presidential election, also said that the actions of the Russian Federation demonstrated to the world community its true role in the conflict as an aggressor state waging a war against Ukraine.
The response of the world community was predictable, but fairly balanced. The UN Secretary-General António Guterres expressed the hope that the spirit of the Minsk Agreements would be respected, and all issues resolved through constructive dialogue in the existing negotiation format. The UN recognizes that the Decree signed by the President of the Russian Federation is an impulse for the new Kiev authorities to implement the Minsk Agreements, and not the real threat of “separating” of Donbass.
The President of Ukraine, counting on the active support of the international community and the strengthening of diplomatic and sanctions pressure on Russia, initiated an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council on April 25, 2019. The Special Representative of the OSCE Chairman-in-Office in Ukraine and in the Contact Group, Ambassador Martin Sajdik, said that Vladimir Putin’s Decree does not contribute to the implementation of the Minsk agreements, is provocative and violates the sovereignty of Ukraine. In response to this, Russia’s permanent representative to the UN, Vasily Nebenzya, clarified that Moscow provides residents of the region with the opportunity to become Russian citizens, and does not force them to do so. He also stressed that people will decide whether to use this right or not.
In turn, the citizens of the Donetsk People’s Republic were enthusiastic about the humanitarian initiative of the President of the Russian Federation. Authorities of the Republic expressed their gratitude to Vladimir Putin for the invaluable assistance and support that is provided for the region in a difficult time. This measure was called an objective necessity existing in today’s realities.
The Human Rights Ombudsman in the DPR Daria Morozova also expressed her gratitude, noting that the Decree is an important and crucial decision for residents of the Republic, which will help improve the humanitarian situation, reduce social tensions, help protect human rights and freedoms.
The post of the Human Rights Ombudsman was established in the Donetsk People’s Republic to ensure state protection of the rights and freedoms of citizens and to prevent any forms of discrimination.
Citizens can apply to the Ombudsman in any suitable way. Now, the majority of applications are still verbal and submitted through personal reception either with the Ombudsman or authorities of the Office, addressing the Public Complaints and Appeals Department, via hotlines and via web-reception on the Website of the Ombudsman. There is a possibility to file a written complaint that may be submitted either in person or via e-mail.
On 24 April, staff of the DPR Ombudsman Office conducted an on-site reception of citizens in Amvrosievka region.
Six citizens attended the reception in order to get assistance in restoring their rights and receive clarifications. They were provided with detailed explanations of the norms of the current legislation by representatives of the Human Rights Ombudsman’s Office.
Since the beginning of 2019, the Ombudsman received 2119 complaints. In the period of work between 20 and 26 April 2019, 5 citizens attended personal reception of the Ombudsman, 34 persons received counselling by the Appeals department, 10 citizens received counselling by the Working Group on Issues of Temporary Displaced Persons, and 8 persons received legal counselling, and 6 persons through on-site reception. 12 written appeals were approved for consideration, 18 – have been reviewed among those received earlier. 31 calls were received via hotlines, 8 applications were received via e-mail.
All appeals received can be divided into nine categories: violations in criminal law – 164 appeals, violations in civil law – 218 appeals, administrative and legal violations against the DPR citizens – 24 appeals, complaints against the acts or omissions of judiciary – 69 appeals, complaints against the acts or omissions of law-enforcement authorities and servicemen – 131 appeals, complaints against the acts or omissions of government officials – 77, social, humanitarian and economic issues – 813 appeals, issues connected with hostilities – 455 appeals, other issues – 168 appeals (diagram 1).
The number of appeals (complaints, applications) from citizens, submitted to the Office of DPR Ombudsman as of 26.04.2019
Violations in criminal law
Сomplaints against the acts or omissions of judiciary
Social, humanitarian and economic issues
Violations in civil law
Сomplaints against the acts or omissions of law-enforcement authorities and servicemen
issues connected with hostilities
Administrative and legal violations against citizens
complaints against the acts or omissions of government officials
Among all incoming correspondence to the Ombudsman of DPR, the one which deals with the issues of exercise of social rights of citizens and violations of these rights is the most frequent. These issues are: pension and social payments, benefits, disability, humanitarian aid – 302 appeals; transportation, communication and consumer rights – 35 appeals; issues of housing legislation, protection of consumers of housing and public utility services – 148 appeals, migration legislation issues – 180 appeals, labour legislation issues – 74 appeals, healthcare issues – 71 appeals, issues of education, culture and sport – 3 appeals. (Diagram 2).
The number of appeals (complaints, applications) from citizens on social and humanitarian issues, received by the DPR Ombudsman`s Office as of 26.04.2019
Pension and social payments, benefits, disability, humanitarian aid
Migration legislation issues
Transportation, communication and consumer rights
Labour legislation issues
Issues of education, culture and sport
Issues of housing legislation, protection of consumers of housing and public utility services
The majority of complaints are traditionally received from Donetsk, by territory (Diagram 3).
The number of appeals (complains, applications) from citizens, received by the DPR Ombudsman`s Office as of 26.04.2019
- Death toll, injuries to civilians and soldiers as a result of hostilities in the territory of the Donetsk People`s Republic.
The DPR Ombudsman’s Office documents cases of violations of Donbass citizens’ rights by the Ukrainian side: the right to life, to security of the person.
On 20 April, as a result of shelling outside Dokuchaevsk, DR servicemen born in 1983 and 1969 sustained injuries of varying severities.
On 21 April, as a result of hostilities outside Zhabunka village, Yasinovataia region, a DPR serviceman born in 1982 sustained mine-blast trauma and multiple shrapnel wounds to the neck.
Within the period between 19 and 25 April 2019, 3 DPR servicemen received injuries as a result of armed aggression by Ukraine in the territory of the Donetsk People’s Republic.
Within the period between 1 January and 25 April 2019, 58 persons, including 42 DPR servicemen, 5 civilian women and 11 civilian men sustained injuries of various severities.
Between 17 and 25 April 2019, 9 DPR servicemen have died in the Donetsk People’s Republic.
Within the period between 1 January and 25 April 2019, 60 persons, including 56 DPR servicemen, 2 civilian women and 2 civilian men died as a result of armed aggression by Ukraine.
To be specific, since the beginning of the armed conflict 4789 persons died, including 81 children.
Officially confirmed information on individuals, who have been wounded since the beginning of the conflict continues to be reported to the Ombudsman’s Office in DPR.
- Register of the prisoners of war, missing soldiers
This week the Ombudsman’s Office in the Donetsk People’s Republic hasn’t received any appeals on arrest.
Based on the updated figures as of 26.04.2019, 253 persons are held by the Ukrainian side including:
– 97 of those whose presence on the territory of Ukraine had been confirmed. It has been reported that one person from the list of detainees has been released as he had served his sentence.
– 156 persons whose whereabouts are unknown or are pending clarification by the Ukrainian side.
This week the Ombudsman’s Office in the Donetsk People’s Republic hasn’t received any appeals on missing persons.
As of 26 April 2019, 461 persons are considered missing. They could have been taken prisoner in Ukraine.
- Register of displaced persons and affected citizens.
At the time of armed conflict, the civilian population living in the zone of fighting and near the contact line is often affected. With the view to protect the human right to life and security of the person, and to provide assistance to victims as a result of armed aggression by Ukraine, social housing objects (dormitories, preventative clinics, health care centres).
Since the beginning of the conflict 5380 referrals for accommodation in social housing objects (dormitories, preventative clinics, health care centres etc.) have been issued, 137 of them – in 2018. With the coming into force of the Order of the Head of the Donetsk People’s Republic No. 137 of 24.04.2018, Territorial commissions in cities and districts are now responsible for accommodating affected civilians. They work under supervision of the Republican Commission on Resettlement of Affected Persons chaired by the DPR Human Rights Ombudsman.
During the period of work between 20 and 26 April 2019, 10 persons have applied to the Ombudsman’s Office on the issues related to internally displaced persons. There are currently 1307 accommodation places in the Donetsk People’s Republic available for citizens affected by hostilities. Since the beginning of the conflict, 7172 persons, including 1760 children have been registered as persons affected as a result of the conflict. 77 social housing objects (dormitories, preventative clinics, health care centres) have been opened in the territory of DPR. 54 of them operate, 23 of them are held in reserve. Currently, 2414 persons live in social housing objects (dormitories, preventative clinics, health care centres) of the Donetsk Administration, including 460 underage children, 4758 persons live in the housing fund of the DPR, including 1300 children.
- Protection of children’s rights
The need to protect the rights and freedoms of children is provided for in the Geneva Declaration of the Rights of the Child, 1924, and the Declaration of the Rights of the Child, adopted by the UN General Assembly on November 20, 1959, recognized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (Articles 23 and 24), International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (Article 10), as well as in national legislation (Article 31 of the Constitution of the Donetsk People’s Republic).
The Human Rights Ombudsman in the Donetsk People’s Republic pays special attention to this issue in her activities. In the view to ensure effective protection of children’s rights and freedoms by the state, according to the established schedule of visits to child social institutions, on 23 April representatives of the Ombudsman Office conducted an inspection of living conditions and educational process in the Donetsk special boarding school No.20. The school is attended by more than 141 children aged 6-18 hearing impaired and mentally retarded, as well as those with severe speech disorders.
The inspectors noted that the institution started implementing the project “Books and reading through leisure and communicating”. As part of that project, students read and retell texts to improve verbal skills. Speech therapists help children make children’s speech clearer through special methods.
Also, the inspectors held a working meeting with the administrative staff of the boarding school. They raised issues of implementation of recommendations by representatives of the Ombudsman’s Office given after the previous inspection. In order to assess the dynamics of improvement, staff of the Ombudsman Office are going to conduct one more visit to the institution.