THE COVID-19 EPIDEMIC IN THE TEMPORARILY OCCUPIED TERRITORIES: RISK FACTORS
The Ministry for Reintegration is closely monitoring the situation in the temporarily occupied areas of Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts, the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and Sevastopol on the spread of COVID-19 epidemic caused by coronavirus SARS-CoV-2.
Analysis of the available information indicates increased risks for the residents of TOT due to the policy of double standards of the Russian occupation administrations towards the local residents.
Increased risk factors are common for both the ORDLO (occupied areas of Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts) and Crimea.
Civilians of TOT are deceived by conflicting information reports and actions of the Russian occupation administrations, they do not receive proper medical care and are in a much worse position than the Russian occupation contingents, which have also become an additional source of infectious threat.
Such treatment of the civilians is a flagrant violation of the international humanitarian law by the occupying state, which has ignored its obligations.
“One of the fundamental tenets in the ideology of the “Russian world” is blatant disregard for human life. They do not take care of their citizens or strangers. And for those who have been occupied, under the guise of “protection” the attitude is even worse. Our state differs from Russia in its attitude to people, it is the basis of our approach to reintegration,” said Deputy Prime Minister of Ukraine Oleksii Reznikov.
In the view of the current epidemiological situation and the high risk of a disease surge, the Ministry for Reintegration recommends citizens who are residing in TOT in the near future do the following:
1) avoid contact with persons who have returned from abroad in the last 14 days, primarily from big cities of the Russian Federation, where the incidence rate is high;
2) avoid communication with representatives of the Russian occupation contingents and participation in mass events in the context of preparation for Victory Day on May 9;
Information on the incidence of coronavirus in TOT
As of the morning of April 15, the occupation authorities had recognized the following number of coronavirus cases:
• Crimea - 34 persons (more than 2.7 thousand in various medical-surveillance regimes);
• Sevastopol - 8 persons (more than 1.3 thousand persons in various medical-surveillance regimes);
• ORDO (occupied areas of Donetsk Oblast) - 22 persons (around 9 thousand in various medical-surveillance regimes);
• ORLO (occupied areas of Luhansk Oblast)- 16 persons (around 4 thousand in various medical-surveillance regimes).
At the same time, the existence of fatal cases in TOT is disputed.
However, according to available information, these statistics does not correspond to reality, the incidence rate is higher. In particular, fatal cases with significant symptoms of coronavirus were recorded in the territory of ORLO back in March; on April 4, a citizen infected with a coronavirus died at Central District Hospital in Amvrosiivka (territory of ORDO), but this fact is hidden, all medical records were sized.
After the media coverage about the case in Amvrosiivka, the occupation administrations in ORDLO are taking additional measures to conceal the truth. Medical workers are forced to sign non-disclosure agreements and are physically closed in medical facilities together with the infected persons, as happened on April 11, for example, in Clinical Mine Hospital, Makiivka and Clinical Hospital No. 16 in Donetsk. In all fatal cases with symptoms of coronavirus other causes of death are indicated.
Consequently, in order to warn citizens in the temporarily occupied territories, the Ministry for Reintegration draws attention to the following risk factors:
1. Connection with the Russian Federation
According to the Head of the Russian occupation administration in Crimea Serhii Aksonov, as of April 15, out of 34 recognized cases of coronavirus 25 were imported.
A typical situation, according to the occupation leaders themselves, is that infection was brought from Moscow, where as of the morning of April 15 more than 14.7 thousand cases were recorded, 106 persons died. Aksenov personally stressed in statements dated from April 3, April 6, April 7 and April 12 that the virus is “brought” to Crimea by infected persons who came from Moscow. This applies, in particular, to two new cases in Crimea, recorded on April 15.
Also, Aksenov admitted on March 20 that the bridge across the Kerch Strait is a risk factor in the context of the epidemic, as there have been cases recorded of infected persons returning from vacations abroad.
On April 14, the Head of the Russian occupation administration in Sevastopol Mikhailo Razvozzhayev admitted that the number of infected persons doubled from 4 to 8 persons. “Today in Sevastopol we have another confirmed case of coronavirus infection. The situation is typical, a man returned from Moscow and did not warn anyone about it. As a result, he infected his elderly mother, who is now in an Infectious Disease Hospital... Unfortunately, this case once again shows negligence of people and careless attitude, first of all, to their relatives, and close persons,” noted Razvozzhayev.
However, Simferopol International Airport still accepts at least 5 flights from Moscow daily and several more from other regions of the Russian Federation. An average of 1.5 thousand vehicles daily arrive in Crimea through the bridge in Kerch area. Many visitors stop in private homes, avoiding epidemiological control and self-isolation measures.
Leadership of the occupation administrations in ORLO and ORDO blocked the crossing of contact line through EECP in Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts for propaganda considerations, motivating the desire to prevent the “import of coronavirus” from the free areas of Donbas. At the same time, representatives of the occupation administration of ORDO on March 19 recognized the first 2 cases of coronavirus, both persons have returned from Moscow. Import of coronavirus from Moscow to ORLO was publicly recognized on April 4.
As a result of the spread of the epidemic, the occupation administrations have blocked traffic between the occupied territories. Due to the deterioration of the situation, it was even considered using the blast furnaces of Alchevsk Iron and Steel Works as a crematorium on one of the meetings of ORLO authorities. At the same time, traffic across the temporarily non-Government controlled territory of the Russian-Ukrainian border did not stop!
In particular, until recently, transportation of persons to Rostov Oblast of the Russian Federation for issuing of Russian passports was organized. These persons were officially exempt from the need to stay at the observatory for 14 days, unlike all other categories of persons entering ORDLO.
In the period from April 4 to April 10 almost 1500 persons were sent for passports by 35 buses from Luhansk bus station No. 1 by special routes to the settlements of Novoshakhtinsk, Chervonyi Sulin, Hukove and Donetsk (Rostov Oblast). However, after the persons who were travelling for passports in 4 different buses, were diagnosed with coronavirus, the occupation administrations of ORLO and ORDO in the evening of April 10 announced the suspension of these trips, starting from April 13.
Therefore, if in March representatives of the Russian occupation administrations in Crimea, Sevastopol and ORDLO tried to spread false information, that coronavirus is “imported” from Ukraine, now they directly and publicly point at visitors from Russia as a risk factor, because the situation is rapidly deteriorating and it is no longer possible to conceal these facts.
2. Military contingents and preparations for Victory Day parade on May 9
While the civilians of TOT are deprived of proper medical care and lack medicines and personal protective equipment, the occupation administrations are attempting to take enhanced preventive measures against the military contingents. However, it is the military contingents that are currently a factor of the epidemiological threat.
During March and early April, 120 virologists from the CBRN defense units of the Southern Military District of the Russian Federation were brought on a rotational basis to the territory of ORDLO.
Military units controlled by the Russian Federation in ORDLO, in Crimea and Sevastopol are transferred to the barracks, contacts with family members are limited, and a ban on receiving primary medical care in public hospitals is introduced. A part of the Russian military personnel that are not involved in combat actions are allowed to leave ORDLO for the Russian Federation by order of the leadership for the period until May. Women that are part of military units controlled by the Russian Federation were released from their duties and sent home for quarantine.
However, in recent weeks citizens who have worked in the Russian Federation have been returning to ORDLO, mainly from Moscow. Some of them are “employed” by the occupying military contingents, potentially being the carriers of infection.
In the context of the 75th anniversary of the victory over Nazism in World War II, the Russian authorities have planned to hold military parades. They have not yet been cancelled; rehearsals were held until recently during which it is impossible to observe the requirements of social distancing.
On April 1, one of the militants of the so-called “10th Artillery Brigade of the 2nd Army Corps” lost consciousness during the rehearsal of the parade in the territory of the so-called “Military Patriotic Park of Culture and Recreation of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation “Patriot” created by the occupation administration on the base of destroyed Luhansk airport by Russian troops, he was taken to the hospital with obvious symptoms of coronavirus. Soon one militant of the so-called “6th Separate Guards Motor Rifle Regiment” was diagnosed with coronavirus infection.
The last case of coronavirus infection in temporarily occupied Sevastopol is connected with the return from Moscow of a serviceman of the Black Sea Fleet of the Russian Federation. Since April 15 the occupation authorities have been transferring Sevastopol to the regime of a closed city, to which one will be allowed only by passes. But these restrictions are not applied to servicemen who, in particular, come from Russia.
According to the available information, on April 5 an employee of the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation was hospitalized with the diagnosis of COVID-19 in Donetsk, that recently arrived from Russia. Military personnel from the Southern Military District of the Russian Federation infected with coronavirus are sent to military hospitals located in Crimea and Sevastopol, causing a negative reaction of the local residents.
Assistance from Ukraine
The Ministry for Reintegration provides comprehensive assistance in the process of preparing convoys to Donbas with humanitarian aid from the ICRC and the WHO.
In the framework of the first convoy, which was held on April 3 in the territory of ORDLO, 9.6 thousand hygiene kits and medicines were handed over.
This assistance was part of the humanitarian cargo, with a total volume of 13.6 tons, containing oxygen concentrators, intubation kits, personal protective equipment, disinfectants, medication, and the like and they have already been transferred to medical institutions in Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts and the temporarily occupied territories.
In particular, on the free territory of Donbas there are two hospitals in Lysychansk; City Hospital in Lysychansk and Luhansk Oblast Children's Clinical Hospital have received medical products, disinfectants, dressing and plastering kits, etc. Medical workers of Mariupol City Hospital No. 2 have received personal protective equipment and supplies, which will be needed during treatment of patients with coronavirus and other infectious diseases.
The second convoy is currently being prepared, which is expected in the near future. It should be noted that the leadership of the occupation administrations controlled by the Russian Federation in ORDLO in their requests for assistance, which comes from the free territory of Ukraine, avoid emphasis on the fight against the coronavirus epidemic for propaganda considerations.