The situation in eastern Ukraine was described as a catastrophic, full-blown war by Russia's UN envoy, Vitaly Churkin, during the latest UN Security Council meeting. Russia has also called for an international humanitarian mission to be launched.
Fighting between Kiev’s army and self-defense forces intensified on Tuesday, with the Ukrainian military using heavy weaponry around Donetsk in eastern Ukraine. According to witnesses, the Ukrainian army resorted to multiple rocket launchers, including Uragan launchers and cruise missiles, RIA Novosti reported citing local militia.
Cruise missiles were spotted flying over the city of Gorlovka on Tuesday, while Uragan launchers were seen near the town of Snezhniy, witnesses told the news agency. Explosions reportedly caused by airstrikes were also heard within the city of Donetsk.
— Natalia Melnychuk (@pravolivo) August 5, 2014
Amid the increased violence, Russia called for an emergency UN Security Council session on the humanitarian situation in Ukraine on Tuesday.
Russia’s UN envoy proposed the deployment of an international humanitarian mission, along with Russian humanitarian aid under the auspices of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
“We propose to send convoys of Russian humanitarian aid under the auspices of the ICRC, to Donetsk and Lugansk, as well as other towns in Ukraine, where internally displaced persons are concentrated in the eastern regions,” Churkin said.
He noted that eastern Ukrainians urgently require food, medicine, medical equipment, water purification systems, and electricity generators.
“By any human standards, the situation in the east, especially in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions, is catastrophic,” Churkin said. “Today with certainty we can and should be talking about a real war – the International Committee of the Red Cross officially acknowledged the internal armed conflict in the east of Ukraine.”
“Artillery, tanks, as well as rockets are used. There is continuing information from locals about the use of phosphorus bombs and cluster bombs,” Churkin added. “There is indiscriminate shelling of housing blocks and critical civilian infrastructure. In many small towns about 80 percent of houses have been destroyed, according to most conservative estimates. More than 600 buildings have fallen.”
Meanwhile Ukraine’s envoy to UN Yuriy Sergeyev said the situation in eastern Ukraine is manageable by the government, adding that there is no humanitarian crisis.
Ukraine's envoy to UN: the situation in the country is managable by the government, there is no humanitarian crisis
— Alexey Yaroshevsky (@Yaro_RT) August 5, 2014
However, the eastern Ukrainian city of Lugansk declared a state of humanitarian catastrophe on Tuesday over a lack of medical supplies, electricity, and lighting, as well as the lack of mobile and internet communication. Some 250,000 civilians are unable to leave, a statement on the city council website said.
The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) warned on Tuesday of a “massive exodus and destruction” if fighting continues to escalate in eastern Ukraine.
The agency estimated that “more than 117,000 people are now displaced inside Ukraine” and “as of August 1, an estimated 168,000 people have crossed into Russia so far this year.”
— UN Refugee Agency (@Refugees) August 5, 2014
UNHCR’s Vincent Cochetel told journalists in Geneva that the number of people displaced from the Lugansk and Donetsk regions climbed to 102,600 in August, with 87 percent of the total displaced population in Ukraine coming from the eastern part of the country.
“The current lack of a systematic and uniform system hampers the coordination and implementation of relief efforts. This is also important as the Ukrainian authorities make their preparations for winter. Most of the current shelters in use are not suitable for the cold winter months,” he said.
Cochetel also noted that according to Russian authorities, around 730,000 Ukrainians have fled to Russia since January – without registering – under the country’s visa-free regime. Cochetel stated that UNHCR believes “that number is credible.”
Overall, 3.5 million people have been directly impacted by the violence in eastern Ukraine, according to Cochetel, with significant damages to infrastructure, water, and health supplies. Access to medical care reduced.
More than 400 Ukrainian troops were allowed to cross into Russia after requesting sanctuary on Sunday alone, according to the Rostov region’s border guard spokesman, Vasily Malaev.
The Ukrainian troops – while far superior to the militia in terms of heavy weapons – suffers from poor logistics. Many soldiers complain about lacking even basic supplies like food and water on the frontline.