Volunteers supplying aid to Ukraine’s frontline have spoken out against forthcoming legislative changes, which they see as imposing a potentially significant barrier to the supply of aid to the front.

This is despite the Ministry of Social Policy’s claims that the new rules are designed to make matters simpler.

On Dec. 1, 2023, government resolution No. 953 will come into effect, making electronic declarations and public reports on the distribution of humanitarian aid mandatory. The new rules will apply to military and dual-use goods registered as humanitarian aid, along with clothes, food, and hygienic items.

At present, the registration of humanitarian supplies is regulated by Resolution No. 174, which has been in force since March 1, 2022. This sought to greatly simplify the rules for customs clearance of humanitarian aid.

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The government believes that the new requirements – including (but not limited to) inventory listing by categories, names of imported goods, their amount, weight or volume, price per item, and the original cost – are supposed to eradicate corruption in humanitarian aid importation. Also required are reports from aid recipients and any onward beneficiaries.

Volunteers are displeased, citing overcomplication, excessive bureaucracy and lack of confidence that the new rules will be effective against corruption. There are also concerns about the potential negative impact on the speed of delivery of essential assistance to the front, and its total amount. Volunteers say that it will be especially bad for those engaged in the import of medical supplies to help the Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU).

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“I don't believe it will stop anyone from selling humanitarian supplies. These people have had connections at the state's border for a long time, so justifying it with the fight against corruption sounds like a thin excuse” wrote Veronica Mutsei, head of the Dutch charitable foundation "Stichting Zeilen van Vrijned" on Facebook.

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“The worst aspect of this innovation is the reporting part,” she added.

Mutsei stated that, since the beginning of Russia’ full-scale invasion, her foundation has given Ukraine more than EUR 20 million in humanitarian supplies. The aid is transferred every two weeks or once a month directly to military units, partner foundations, and medical facilities.

According to her, the preparation of one aid convoy takes about two weeks, and after the new resolution comes into force, this may increase to more than one month.

“We are completely open in our reporting to donors and sponsors. But how do you expect me to demand a report from a military officer at the front line after we – let's say – sent him three tourniquets he asked for? Excuse me, but my conscience won't let me! On the other hand, if I don't submit this report and register it in the system, we won't be able to help this unit in the next six months.”

She added: “Take a nurse who cares for many patients during power outages: Can she provide us with the required amount of reports? Or the hospital – will it be able to provide a report for each little pack of paracetamol?”.

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Mutsei is not the only volunteer to speak up about the complexity of reporting introduced by the new regulation.

“This resolution primarily affects medical volunteers, and they are responsible for the lives of our defenders,” Diana Makarova, a volunteer since 2014, wrote on Facebook.

“Our partners come from Europe, America, Canada, and other countries where listing your residence address is not considered dangerous. They haven't even heard about the kidnapping and murder of activists and volunteers,” Makarova emphasizes.

“Some people get a hundred tourniquets, others are given three hemostatic agents. Some are given cereals, others are given a loaf of bread. And the volunteer has to write down their passport data and the number of leftover items,” writes Diana.

The new rules in detail

According to the existing resolution, a declaration for customs clearance of humanitarian aid items can be submitted by a representative of the recipient, for example a driver, either in paper or in electronic form at any checkpoint.

The importation of military and dual-use items also requires the importer to send letters of guarantee to the receiving military units. However, according to the new regulations, this rule has been canceled.

On Sept. 6, in the notice of changes published on the official website of the Ministry of Social Policy, it was emphasized that the new system is designed to simplify the process of importing humanitarian supplies.

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“According to the resolution, the rules for importing and accounting for humanitarian aid are about to be changed. The information regarding the new regulations will be available digitally in the automated system,” states the department's message.

The Ministry also points out that the guiding principle of importing humanitarian supplies under martial law will be upheld, and the procedure for their importation will be streamlined.

From Dec. 1, 2023, a total of 20 steps are required to import humanitarian supplies under the new regulations.

This begins with generating a qualified electronic signature, followed by submitting an electronic application to the Ministry of Social Policy's system to be assigned a code.

The recipient (volunteer/fund) must enter information about each batch of goods they plan to import to Ukraine. Among the required data are:

  • product family of the goods (according to the Ukrainian Classification of Goods);
  • quantity and weight of each group of products;
  • wear-down percentage or expiration date;
  • the benefactor's written offer or invoice;
  • letters from those in need of humanitarian aid;
  • humanitarian aid distribution plan.

Later, the system automatically assigns a unique humanitarian aid code to this list of products, which also means that the goods have obtained the status of humanitarian aid for the next 90 days.

The recipient or their representative must then submit a declaration for customs clearance. This document must include the recipient's number in the system and a unique humanitarian aid code. A declaration cannot be submitted without a unique code.

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 At the same time, according to the declaration, the import of humanitarian aid is allowed only within 30 days after its creation. The goods listed in the declaration must correspond to the list registered in the system under the universal code. In the event of any discrepancies, the customs officer will not allow the cargo's import to Ukraine as humanitarian supplies.

After customs clearance, the recipient is to create an inventory description of the received humanitarian aid in the system, i.e., a primary internal document. This description of humanitarian supplies is created by category and name of goods, number of items and weight or volume, price per unit, and original cost.

If there is a discrepancy between the obtained humanitarian supplies and items indicated in the declaration, the recipient is obliged to create and submit an inventory description of the actual received humanitarian supplies. This means informing law enforcement agencies about any non-compliance.

By the 15th day of the following month after customs clearance, the recipient is to submit an electronic report on the availability and distribution of humanitarian aid.

Everyone receiving humanitarian supplies from the recipient must be listed in this report with their residential addresses, be they individuals or legal entities. If a report on the declared humanitarian aid is not submitted within 90 days after customs clearance, the goods will be considered misused. In such a case, the recipient (except for state-financed establishments) will lose the recipient status. Re-registration is possible no earlier than after six months.

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The resolution states that control over the intended use of humanitarian aid is carried out by the National Social Service, tax inspectorates, and law enforcement agencies. In addition, the National Social Service also monitors data on humanitarian aid and its distribution.

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Comments (2)

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Andy Harrold
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So I deliver aid and vehicles to military units staying out in the countryside, sleeping rough, sometimes these units move location, for example from Zaporizhzhia to Pokrovsk while I'm on route, meaning I need to change direction to find them. I also carry crates of energy drinks, hand warmers, gloves, hats etc which I hand out at checkpoints within Ukraine to the soldiers and police, how am I supposed to account for each checkpoint stop? I'm a one man band, proving units with much needed aid, clothing, equipment etc from the UK. This new legislation will make it impossible for me to deliver.

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nolo
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Many times it is cheaper and better to source aid in-country. One example is tourniquets. They cost only 12EUR each in Ukraine. Another is food supplies for civilians.

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