January 3, 2017, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine Pavlo Klimkin and the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Austria, the newly appointed Head of the OSCE mission, Sebastian Kurz, as well as other members of the mission visited the village of Vinogradnoe near Mariupol. Austrian politician spoke with village residents in a local school, according to the report by the QHA correspondent in Mariupol.

“How is your living? Do you feel safe? And where are your men, why only women came to the meeting?” Kurtz asked.

Residents of the village explained to the European guests, that men were at work, and they live normally.

“If only they did not fire, and we will manage all the rest ourselves!” Said one of the women.

The Ambassador was also interested how the local population treats the OSCE Mission, but the audience answered with silence.

The point is that the locals do not have a clear opinion about the OSCE representatives, who often turn a blind eye to attacks and provocations by separatists. Moreover, pro-Ukrainian Mariupol residents consider the presence of Russian citizens in the commissions inappropriate.

Klimkin and Kurtz took part in the celebrations of presenting the local administration with three thousand new sample plates, which inform about the actions in case of detecting a suspicious object. The plates are to be planted at all the potentially unsafe places in the village of Vinogradnoe and other suburbs of Mariupol. The event was attended by the Mayor of Mariupol Vadim Boychenko and ex-governor of the Donetsk region, the native of Vinogradnoe village Sergei Taruta.

Pavlo Klimkin was quite laconic, he only introduced the Ambassador and voiced the purpose of his visit:

“We brought our guests here in Mariupol, so that they could see the real state of affairs in the region. We will hold a meeting with the mayor and representatives of the Ministries of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine and Austria, where the issue of implementation of the Minsk agreements will be reviewed and further cooperation strategy to be developed."


Head of Mariupol Vadim Boychenko stressed:

“I studied in a school nearby, so I know the problems of local residents firsthand. And I am glad that the representatives of different countries and the OSCE are interested in seeing that our situation has improved. Since the OSCE Forum, we are ready for an open dialogue with everyone.”

Answering the journalist's question, about the current priority in the work of the OSCE and the Austrian foreign policy in relation to Ukraine, Sebastian Kurz said:

“The main and most important thing for us now is to ensure peace and stable situation. It is especially important to do in the eastern Ukraine, where we are now. It is still early to talk and do any conclusions about the Minsk Agreements, we will examine this point. It is also important for me to know how the locals treat our mission and whether they are willing to cooperate. Peace and security issues at the moment are the priority in our work, so the special place is given to the issue of demining and mine safety."

In his speech, the OSCE Project Coordinator in Ukraine Vaidotas Verba noted:

“We are helping the Ukrainian services, including the Ministry of Defence and the Ministry of Emergency Situations. The material part in the form of plates and other types of equipment supplied is only a third of all our opportunities. We have 37 humanitarian projects across the country, but demining is a priority in the east area of Ukraine. Together with the Ukrainian experts, we are working to create digital maps of mined and dangerous places. Signs are not enough to warn about the dangers of shells and mines in the sites of hostilities. As soon as I took office, I immediately went to the Donbas, to ensure efficient operation of the OSCE here.”

Following the presentation of plates, the Red Cross specialists gave a short lecture about mine safety for locals.

While the foreign guests had tea, representatives of the local school administration told that their work is challenged due to the sound of exploding shells in Shyrokyno (a village located a few kilometers away from the school).

“Since the demining in Ukraine was practiced more than seventy years ago, during the Second World War, now we need new legislation for that. Whether humanitarian mission and civil society organizations can deal with it? We need standards and a digital map that is very important, especially working with different agencies and organizations, apart from Ukrainian ones. The experts know how to neutralize one item, but how to clear thousands of kilometers, it is a question of policy and the proper organization of the process,” Jeffrey Ehrlich, Assistant to Vaidotas Verba, said.

During their visit to Donbas, the two ministers planned to discuss the status of implementation of the Minsk agreements and the situation in the region of the military operations with local authorities and representatives of the OSCE monitoring mission.

By Galina Balabanova