Conditions in the separatist-controlled areas make return of refugees to Ukraine impossible

“In Russia as in Ukraine, most of those fleeing the conflict want to go home, but conditions in the separatist-controlled areas of eastern Ukraine make this impossible,” said Jim Sheridan (United Kingdom, SOC), rapporteur for the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) on the humanitarian situation of Ukrainian refugees and displaced persons, speaking at the end of his fact-finding visit to Moscow and the Rostov region of the Russian Federation.

“Fortunately for the hundreds of thousands who fled to the Russian Federation, the Russian authorities’ efforts to meet their needs have been exceptional,” he continued. “I also applaud the Russian people’s generous response, hosting Ukrainian families in their homes and donating 76million rubles to the Russian Red Cross.”

“By contrast, I heard in graphic detail of the ‘terrifying’ humanitarian situation in several of the separatist-controlled areas, especially of Luhansk. People continue to be killed and injured by shells and rockets fired by both sides. Many are living in the ruins of their homes, without gas, water or electricity. Supplies of food are running short. As temperatures in the weeks to come may reach minus 20 degrees Centigrade, the risk of a humanitarian catastrophe is only too real.”

“As I said before, the humanitarian situation, whether in Ukraine or in Russia, cannot be resolved without a complete, durable ceasefire. Whilst I welcome the new ‘Day of Silence’ truce, therefore, I was troubled by the anecdotal accounts I heard during my visit of the presence of Russian soldiers and military material in Ukraine,” he concluded.

In Moscow, Mr Sheridan met members of the Russian delegation to PACE and representatives of the Federal Migration Service, the UNHCR and local and international NGOs.

In Rostov-on-Don, Mr Sheridan met the Deputy Governor of the Rostov region and other local officials and representatives of the local branch of the Russian Red Cross and the OSCE Observer Mission at the Russian Border Checkpoints Gukovo and Donetsk. He also visited a school attended by Ukrainian refugee and displaced children and a temporary accommodation centre for Ukrainian refugees and displaced persons.