Travel Alert – Ukraine Local Unrest…

Slavyansk Mayor Calls for Russian Military Intervention amid Heightened Tensions

Category: Instability

Severity: 3 (Moderate)

Source: Drum Cussac

05/13/2014 (Ukraine) – Media reports issued on Monday, 12 May, indicate that the self-proclaimed mayor of Slavyansk, Vyacheslav Ponomaryov, called for a Russian military intervention in the Donetsk region. Ponomaryov stated that Russian troops are needed to reinstall peace and stability in the region. He claimed that pro-Kiev military forces are occupying the region’s territory. Meanwhile, self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic leader Denis Pushilin urged Moscow to absorb Donetsk into the Russian Federation.

The Slavyansk area has experienced the bulk of the ongoing nationalist offensive against pro-Russia separatists strongholds in the country’s southeastern regions of Donetsk and Lugansk. Since 2 May, Ukrainian military units have targeted rebel positions in the Slavyansk area. This resulted in the heavy shelling of villages south of the town. Media reports indicate that approximately thirty pro-Russian gunmen died in the attacks. Russian news outlets claim that at a least a dozen civilians also lost their lives in the violence. Ponomaryov’s demand comes against the backdrop of a separatist referendum that was held on 11 May in the Donetsk and Lugansk Oblasts. The contested polls resulted in widespread approval of enhanced autonomy for the two pro-Russia regions.

At this juncture, it appears unlikely that the Russian government will dispatch military units to the Donetsk region in the immediate-to short-term. In an attempt to cool regional and international tensions, Russian President Vladimir Putin has yet to respond to the call for Donetsk to become part of Russia. Instead, Putin has called for fresh talks between all parties in Ukraine. This policy is unlikely to result in an improvement of the situation in the short-term as nationalists and separatists remain entrenched in their respective positions.

Monday’s call issued by the mayor of Slavyansk does not point toward an elevated risk of conflict in the immediate-term. However, it underlines the unpredictability of the situation in eastern Ukraine. Clients should closely monitor Russia’s response to the 11 May referendum and the 12 May calls for intervention as it could further shape the travel risk environment in Lugansk and Donetsk.

Meanwhile, the situation in the Slavyansk area is assessed as highly volatile. Further clashes pitting separatists against nationalists are expected to occur in the immediate term. Clients should reconsider non-essential travel to the aforementioned locations in the immediate-to short-term. Military operations and demonstrations can result in a heightened risk of exposure to violence. Mission critical travel should be undertaken under strict risk management protocols with an emphasis on security. Special attention should be given to the threat posed by unexploded military ordnance. Contingency measures should also be continually reviewed and updated accordingly to ensure that they are commensurate to current threat levels.

Copyright © 2014 Drum Cussac

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