19:16 Sep. 20, 2016
Ukrainian MP Iryna Gerashchenko says most deputies from EU-Ukraine Parliamentary Association Committee refused to travel to Donbas with her
Rebecca Harms, Michal Boni and Jaromir Stetina - are the only three members of the EU-Ukraine Parliamentary Association Committee who went to Donbas to see with their own eyes. The rest, 17 deputies decided to stay in safe and comfortable Kyiv, as it was recommended by European Parliament leaders.
Iryna Gerashchenko, First Deputy Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada, have visited Donbas together with European colleagues. Their aim was to talk to inhabitants of the villages near the contact line, visit the checkpoint, meet internally displaced persons and discuss the issue of adhering to the ceasefire with the Ukrainian military on the frontline.
Here is what Iryna Gerashchenko writes about their trip:
Today we visited Mariyinka. Lenina street that was renamed Prokofiyeva street. The citizens sadly joke that every night they can hear music… A sniper worked here this morning. other positions are 500 meters away. A family with two small children (one of them has epilepsy, every time there is a shelling it's followed by a serious stroke) shows us fragments of shells that fired into their house last year… Europeans are shocked. They go down to the basement where the family sleeps during shellings.
"The Minsk and the Normandy format talks should take place here"- said a young woman sadly, who is dreaming of peace. People continue to live in Maryinka and the neighboring town of Krasnohorivka. In Maryinka there are only 5 thousand inhabitants. There are problems with gas and electricity. The other side does not give a chance to repair the electrical grid. There is a possibility that people will start the winter without warmth and light. I shall be advising about this situation in Minsk on September 21. Raising the issue about infrastructure. We saw many houses without a roof that had been damaged during a recent shelling. People continue to live here, because this is their home, they have houses, property, and because it is their motherland.
Then we went to the Mariynka checkpoint. It was rather quiet here today. A couple of days ago the checkpoint was closed because of shelling.... European colleagues had an opportunity to talk to people from the occupied territories who go to the territories controlled by the Ukrainian government to receive pensions and buy cheaper products. They had an opportunity to question about life on the other side. People admit that they use Russian rubl as there are no hryvnyas, euro or dollars on the occupied territories. Only rubl – currency of the country that has started the war.
All people whom we have met today talked about this very same issue – ceasefire is violated every day! On September 12, before another ceasefire declaration there was shelling, including those made from the prohibited weapons such as mortars and small arms along with many other weapons. Everyday someone is injured… Every week someone is killed…
I am thankful to my European colleagues for being here with eyes open. They preferred not to use combat helmets and services of the bodyguards. "People are walking here without any helmets",- fairly noted our European partners. It was also very important for people from the occupied territories to meet foreigners. "To achieve peace you should work better in the European Parliament", - they said.
We have also visited the frontline the location of our military. We have visited a real field camp, checked out the living conditions and tasted some food from their field kitchen. Ambassador Tochytskyi demonstrated that our soldiers on the diplomatic arena are also in a good shape, and did several chin-ups before dinner):
Our European colleagues are convinced that those who advocate for lifting of sanctions from the Russian Federation must visit Mariynka to see the consequences of the conflict. It is not enough just to talk about the Minsk agreements. Only together we can stop the aggression of the Russian Federation and violations of all international norms and principles. Today civilians and military told Europeans that Ukrainians expect solidarity from the EU.