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On Fleeing E. Ukraine into Russia, Amos Says 10s of 1000s, Ging Said More

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, August 24 -- When UN humanitarian chief Valerie Amos visited Eastern Ukraine, her agency on August 24 put out a press release saying that

Amos visited an internally displacement persons' center in Krasnyi Lyman and “met women who had fled the fighting with their families.” The UN OCHA statement on Sunday said that “since March this year, around 200,000 people have fled their homes in search of safety within Ukraine and tens of thousands have fled to neighboring countries.”

  What does "tens of thousands" mean -- and why is it so different from what OCHA official John Ging told the UN Security Council on August 5? In that Council session, Ging said

“since the start of the year 168,677 Ukrainians are registered as having crossed into Russia, with nearly 60,000 of these having applied for refugee status and a further 115,952 having applied for other forms of legal stay.”
    Ging on August 5 acknowledged that “this is not the full picture as many Ukrainians that have fled their homes do not register with Ukrainian authorities or officially apply for assistance. The Russian authorities and UNHCR are reporting that 740,000 people have crossed the border since the start of the year.”

  While technically both 740,000 and 168,677 are made up of "tens of thousands," there is a striking disparity between what Ging told the Security Council on August 5, and the OCHA's August 24 press release on Amos' visit to Krasnyi Lyman.  What explains it?

   Back on August 24 just as an emergency but closed-door meeting of the Security Council about Ukraine began, and after the US, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon issued this statement:

The Secretary-General follows with deep concern reports that a Russian aid convoy has crossed the border into Ukraine without the permission of the Ukrainian authorities. While recognising the deteriorating humanitarian situation, any unilateral action has the potential of exacerbating an already dangerous situation in eastern Ukraine.

Once again, the Secretary-General urges all sides, in particular Ukraine and the Russian Federation, to continue to work together, in coordination with the international community, to ensure that humanitarian assistance reaches the most affected areas. He reiterates that all sides should continue to exercise maximum restraint and avoid escalation.

In this regard, he is encouraged by the announcement from President Petro Poroshenko that Ukraine will do everything possible to prevent more serious consequences as a result of the convoy moving into Ukrainian territory.

 How was this statement formulated? By whom? Inner City Press asked: What is the position of the UN's humanitarian chief Valerie Amos, who has elsewhere called for cross-border aid?

   At the Churkin presser, Inner City Press asked about the draft press statement Russia proposed on August 21.

 Churkin said that the “indefatigable” Lithuanian delegation “sent in amendments” that dropped references to Russia and included references to the European Union and dropped the reference to a ceasefire. Then, Churkin said, the US delegations send in amendments dropping the ceasefire and blaming the separatists.

  Inner City Press also asked about a report by CNN from Eastern Ukraine in which correspondent Diana Magney asked why Russia was sending salt if there are salt mines in Eastern Ukraine.

  Churkin said, "You can mine salt if you are not shelled.  If you are hiding in your cellars, mining salt is problematic."

   Later the Voice of America's correspondent asked about accusations that the convoy was only to support the rebels.

  "With baby food?" Churkin asked.

   "Rebels have babies too," the Voice of America correspondent said. The implication seemed to be that starving children based on the positions taken by their parents would be okay. We'll have more on this - for now, click here.

   Back on July 30 when Ukraine's Permanent Representative to the UN Yuriy Sergeyev held a UN press conference on July 30, Inner City Press asked him about the Human Right Watch report his government is using Grad rockets, killing at least 16 civilians between July 12 and 21 near Donetsk.

  Sergeyev responded first about the UN's (or Ivan Simonovic's) report, then emphasized that Russian media is saying Ukraine is using ballistic missiles.

  Inner City Press repeated the question, emphasizing it concerns Human Rights Watch's report, not the UN's, and not Russian media.  Sergeyev provided essentially the same answer.

  Here is the HRW report, online.

  Inner City Press also asked about the status of the International Monetary Fund program, after the downing of MH17. Sergeyev said Ukraine has met with the IMF's Christine Lagarde and "will" get the next tranche of the program in late August.  But won't there be an Executive Board meeting?

After Russian foreign minister and US Secretary of State John Kerry spoke by phone on July 27, the US State Department issued two read-outs, or a readout in two stages.

  The second, an "additional point" by a Senior State Department Official, was that Kerry "underlined our support for a mutual cease fire verified by the OSCE and reaffirmed our strong support for the international investigation to show the facts of MH17."

  Inner City Press on July 30 asked Sergeyev for Ukraine's position on this. Sergeyev cited as "pre-conditions" the closing of the border with Russia, and the release of all hostages.

  Procedurally, Ukraine set aside the first question at its press conference saying, "Pamela, traditionally you open our session." Using this UN Correspondents Association set-aside, Pam Falk of CBS asked about rebels mining the MH17 site. Her UNCA sidekick asked about "Russian propaganda."

   And so it went until, fifth, the new Free UN Coalition for Access asked about HRW's report. This is how it's working, with the UN's Censorship Alliance. In this context, the Free UN Coalition for Access is against the automatic setting-aside of questions.


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