Alvydas Medalinskas, a political analyst who escaped from the Russian-occupied city of Berdiansk just a few weeks ago, recalls that it was only by chance that he did not go back to Mariupol on the eve of the war, where the population is currently experiencing a living hell. Yet, having seen with his own eyes what international organisations’ attempts to provide safe humanitarian corridors for civilians in these territories look like, he says he cannot believe their disability, lrytas.lt reported.
“No humanitarian corridor as I imagine it, as I saw it in Syria, has been in place for about a month. Although the structure formally exists, people are still receiving money, but they are not in the region,” Medalinskas said on the “Lietuvos rytas” TV programme “New Day”.
The political analyst said that one of the reasons why organisations that are supposed to ensure humanitarian corridors, including the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), do not adequately perform their duties is fear.
“When the clouds were clearing, I met with representatives of various international organisations – the OSCE, the European Union’s advisory mission, etc. I was asking them, how are you, are you staying here? I said: “No, no, no, we have evacuation plans. We are leaving.” If you have evacuation plans, you leave, and only the Red Cross stays, it is obviously difficult to do anything.
Of course, I have found out that Russia is vetoing it (the idea of humanitarian corridors), but what are they vetoing? They are vetoing the OSCE mission, a powerful structure with many people who have been in the Donbas. Some of them cared about it, and others just got a good salary”, he believes.
Later, Medalinskas said he was surprised to hear that several hundred United Nations (UN) representatives had been sent to Ukraine as part of a mission to ensure the opening of humanitarian corridors and security.
“I did not meet them. I listened to my colleagues, I asked around in Berlin, in Vienna, I said, explain where this UN contingent is; I haven’t seen it. I only saw the Red Cross trying to get through, but formally – they are giving an application to see if they can get through. They do not provide them with permission.
That is fine, and we will park the 20 buses here on the side of the road and wait for you to permit them to pass. And people are dying there”, is how the political scientist assessed the efforts of international organisations.
He said that he himself had proposed setting up a multi-stakeholder dialogue group comprising Ukrainians, Russians and Belarusians. It would discuss the provision of humanitarian corridors. However, it is not easy to reach an agreement with the Russians, as even when humanitarian corridors are temporarily opened, they lay mines.
“What I have experienced is strange. I’m not talking about the blockades, where they do as they please, they can pull you out of your car, take you to the basement and then what happens after that, I don’t know, but the end of this famous humanitarian corridor from Mariupol or through Berdyansk was through a minefield. Through the path where the mines are laid out. One of the landmarks was a burnt-out, exploded car.
I was told: “No, don’t go there, because there are probably mines there, you can go a little bit,” the interlocutor was not surprised.
Medalinskas argued that the West’s main focus should now be on the importance of humanitarian corridors. He stressed this in his meeting with Western ambassadors and former OSCE officials.
“We are now also consulting with former OSCE people to develop proposals on what we can do, how to bombard Russia with various proposals, and what can be changed. If you can’t run that powerful OSCE machine, maybe you can run a small structure, the so-called dialogue mission”, the political analyst said.
Do they kill where the protests are loudest?
As Medalinskas told us, he was supposed to go back to Mariupol on the eve of the war. Still, fortunately, he unexpectedly ended up in Berdyansk, which also ended up in Russian hands. Hearing what is happening in Buche, the political analyst warns that there may be more than one such killing centre.
“I would very much like the Western partners to take the same interest in one point called Tokmak. This is the point from Berdiansk to Zaporizhia. There are dungeons there, and soldiers are rampaging. When I found this out, I realised that perhaps I was not on such a safe path. There could be mass graves near those dungeons too”, he believes.
He pointed out that civilian killings were probably most prevalent in the occupied settlements where the loudest protests took place at the beginning of the occupation, with crowds of people taking to the streets to sing the national anthem and carry national flags.
Medalinskas is convinced that they could have been watched by Russian soldiers and then captured and tortured.
“There are actually a lot of reports of missing people. In Berdiansk itself, there were many people arrested and later released. They did not hide their faces or their names, and they are all known”, the political analyst said.