Latest from OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) to Ukraine based on information received as of 18:00 (Kyiv time), 27 March 2015

This report is for media and the general public.

The SMM monitored the implementation of the “Package of measures for the implementation of the Minsk agreements”. The SMM, based on its monitoring – which was restricted by third parties and by security considerations* – observed that fighting continued in the areas around the Donetsk airport and resumed in Shyrokyne, east of Mariupol.

(* Please see the section at the end of this report entitled “Restrictions on SMM access and freedom of movement” for further information.)

The SMM visited Donetsk airport* (“Donetsk People’s Republic” (“DPR”)-controlled, 10km north-west of Donetsk city centre). Between 09:57 and 12:01hrs, while stationary, 100m south of the destroyed new terminal building, the SMM heard sporadic heavy machine gun and small arms fire originating from approximately 1.5km north of its position.

At the headquarters (HQ) of the Joint Centre for Control and Co-ordination (JCCC) in Soledar (government-controlled, 77km north of Donetsk) the SMM observed the presence of officers from the Ukrainian Armed Forces and the Russian Federation Armed Forces. According to the JCCC HQ incident log, the number of ceasefire violations recorded between 08:00hrs on 26 March and 08:00hrs 27 March amounted to 72, out of which 46 violations were reported in the vicinity of Donetsk airport. There were no violations reported by JCCC where tubed artillery or multi launch rocket systems (MLRS) were engaged.

While en route on road T0508*, a few kilometres south-west of Komsomolske (“DPR”-controlled, 45km south-west of Donetsk) the SMM observed a convoy moving north composed of 17 civilian transport trucks with trailers, on which SMM did not note any cargo. All trucks had Russian Federation license plates. The convoy was escorted by two civilian passenger vehicles, one with Ukrainian license plates at the front of the convoy and a second one with Russian licence plates at the end of the convoy. The driver of the latter was wearing a camouflage military-style uniform with a Russian flag patch on his left shoulder.

The SMM spoke to several local residents, men and women, in Horlivka* (“DPR”-controlled, 39km north-east of Donetsk) who said that while a curfew was still in place, the security situation had been calm with electricity, gas and water working properly. They also said that Horlivka had recently received humanitarian aid from the Rinat Akhmetov Foundation and the International Committee of the Red Cross and that the schools have been operational since early March. The SMM visited the main city hospital where the director and his deputy said there had been shortage of medical supplies and that as a result of difficulties receiving supplies passing through the government-controlled checkpoints they relied heavily on humanitarian aid. They expressed concern that hospital staff had not received salaries since July 2014.

In Luhanske (government-controlled, 58km north-east of Donetsk) the SMM met the explosive ordnance services team of the Department for Emergency Services who were collecting explosive ordnances in the nearby area. The interlocutors said that 48 unexploded ordnances (UXOs) had been identified during the day and that they were distributing leaflets to the population in order to raise UXO awareness.

While at an observation point located between Sopyne (government-controlled, 15km east of Mariupol, 4km north-west of Shyrokyne) and Lebedynske (government-controlled, 8km east of Mariupol, 7.5km north-west of Shyrokyne), the SMM heard four outgoing mortar rounds between 06:55 and 07:00hrs and an additional four at 08:20hrs, which all originated from the south-east of its position. The SMM was not able to ascertain the calibre, distance of the fire or its destination. Between 09:45 and 10:45hrs, while at another observation point located in the eastern outskirts of Berdianske (government-controlled, 18km east of Mariupol, 3km west of Shyrokyne), the SMM heard six outgoing mortar shells and an additional two at 10:45hrs as well as small arms fire. In both cases the fire originated from east of the SMM’s position, but further details could not be ascertained.

While attempting to facilitate a local ceasefire to allow the Donbas volunteer battalion to clear the government-controlled western edge of Shyrokyne from UXOs, the SMM travelled through the north of Shyrokyne and passed the “DPR” checkpoint on highway E-58 without delays and met with the “DPR” “commander” responsible for the Shyrokyne area. The “commander” displayed aggressive behaviour towards the SMM and said that this would be the last SMM patrol to the “DPR” side of the village and that the SMM will be shot at if they attempted to return.* With regards to the ceasefire proposal, he agreed to hold the fire as long as his positions would not be fired upon. The “commander” escorted* the SMM to Novoazovsk where his superior joined the convoy until the border with the Russian Federation. The higher ranking “commander” added that the SMM would need a “DPR” escort if it planned to re-enter “DPR” controlled territory. The commander, who initially had threatened the SMM, stated that he would only allow the SMM in the eastern part of Shyrokyne upon receiving specific instructions from his superior. While the SMM was returning to the government-controlled part of Shyrokyne, it heard mortar shells impacting and saw fields, northwest of the village, on fire. The SMM could not ascertain additional details.

While in Sokilnyky (“Lugansk People’s Republic” (“LPR”)-controlled, 37km north-west of Luhansk), the SMM heard three artillery detonations at 8-10km north-east of its position but was not able to ascertain whether it was outgoing or incoming.

The SMM met the sector commander of the “Anti-Terrorism Operation” (“ATO”) Co-ordination Centre in Starobilsk (government-controlled, 84km north-west of Luhansk) responsible for issuing of permits to cross the contact line. He said that 12,400 permits for civilian transit had been issued out of 17,890 applications with 4,900 pending review and that 590 applications had been refused. In addition, some 4,100 vehicle permits were issued with 540 applications under review.

On the main road towards Hirske (government-controlled, 62km north-west of Luhansk) the SMM was approached by two residents of the village of Zholobok (48km north-west of Luhansk, located between government-controlled and “LPR”-controlled areas) who said that they were unable to return to their property in the village as their homes are located on Moskovska Street, which has been the contact line for two months and heavily mined. They raised concerns about lack of access to the village, which was also being restricted by “LPR” armed personnel. In Verkhnia Vilkhova (government-controlled, 27km north-east of Luhansk) the SMM was shown by a villager what appeared to be UXOs a few meters from the road at the entrance of the village, which according to him were the result of shelling two months earlier. The villager expressed concern over the delay in the disposal of these UXOs.

The SMM visited a Ukrainian Armed Forces holding area for heavy weapons for the first time and noted the serial number of the equipment present. The SMM also visited two “DPR” heavy weapons holding areas for the first time and noted the serial number of the equipment present. The visited locations comply with the respective withdrawal lines.

The SMM, following up media reports, visited the building of the local self-defence offices, located next to the regional state administration building of Zaporizhzhia (67km south of Dnepropetrovsk), where an explosion had reportedly occurred on 26 March. On site, the SMM was not able to identify any damage that may have resulted from the explosion. The Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) said that the damage was caused by a homemade explosive device, which was placed in front the of the self-defence offices. The damage was limited to a crack in the glass door, which was so small that the SMM could not see it. The case is under investigation on charges of hooliganism (Article 296 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine) by the regional police.

On 26 March, at 09:35hrs the SMM arrived at the pre-trial detention centre in Odessa, where a protest was organised by lawyers and relatives of detainees, accused of the 2 May 2014 violent events (See SMM Daily Report 4 and 5 May 2014). According to the protestors, the term of detention of the accused expired earlier in the morning and they wanted to present an official request to the head of the pre-trial detention centre seeking to know the justification for their continued detention. They were joined by the leader of a local Automaidan group and the co-ordinator of a local self-defence group. At approximately 10:20hrs, the SMM saw a minivan with licence plates masked with a black tape leave from next to the detention centre, where the lawyers had been. Two members of the United Nations Human Rights Mission in Ukraine said to the SMM that they had witnessed the lawyers being forced into the van against their will. Within 15 minutes the van reappeared, turned at the corner of a nearby street and the lawyers returned from the car. The police stopped the van and questioned the driver before letting it go. By this time the crowd had disbursed. One of the lawyers said to the SMM that they had been taken by three men, driven around the neighbourhood and told to keep silent. They were then released unharmed and continued protesting.

On 27 March, the SMM monitored another protest in Odessa. A group of approximately 30 men in their late teens, some wearing “Pravyy Sektor” (Right Sector) bands gathered in front of the prosecutor’s office at 14:00hrs to protest against a raid conducted at a local internet provider. A Right Sector leader held a speech before handing over a document to the representative of the prosecutor’s office with the protestors’ demands. The SMM did not see this document. Approximately 20 police officers were present and the event ended peacefully.

Upon their arrival to monitor the regular session of the Ivano-Frankivsk regional council the SMM observed a protest in front of the regional state administration building with around 80 men and women of different age groups against what they called the improper implementation of institutional reforms by the authorities. At 14:00hrs, when the SMM departed, the protestors were still in front of the building. The event was monitored by three police officers.

The SMM continued to monitor the situation in Kharkiv, Kherson, Chernivtsi, Lviv and Kyiv.

  • Restrictions on SMM access and freedom of movement:

The SMM is restrained in fulfilling its monitoring functions by restrictions imposed by third parties and security considerations including the lack of information on whereabouts of landmines.

The security situation in Donbas is fluid and unpredictable and the ceasefire does not hold everywhere. For this reason, the SMM requires security guarantees from “DPR” and “LPR” which are not always provided. Where such guarantees are limited to escorted movements, and escorts are not provided for all planned patrols or are delayed, this also represents a restriction of SMM freedom of movement.

In particular during the reporting period:

At a checkpoint in Sokilnyky (“LPR”-controlled, 38km north-west of Luhansk) the SMM attempted to negotiate access to the contact line. The checkpoint “commander” said that the road, although usable, would first have to be cleared from debris and possible UXOs. The SMM was not allowed to proceed further into the village and the “LPR” personnel manning the checkpoint escorted the SMM out of the area. ​At a Ukrainian Armed Forces checkpoint at Stanytsia Luhanska (government-controlled, 16km north-east of Luhansk) the SMM was held for 10 minutes and asked for documents, nationalities, destination and purpose of their visit. At the “LPR” checkpoint located in the suburb of Slovianoserbsk (“LPR”- controlled, 28km north-west of Luhansk) the SMM were prevented from going any further by the “LPR” members manning the checkpoint. The SMM waited approximately 30 minutes until the “LPR” members received orders from their superiors and gave the SMM permission to proceed. The “commander” at a “DPR” checkpoint near Shyrokyne displayed aggressive behaviour towards the SMM and said that this would be the last SMM patrol to the “DPR” side of the village and that the SMM will be shot at if they attempted to return. The “commander” escorted the SMM to Novoazovsk where his superior joined the convoy until the border with the Russian Federation. The higher ranking “commander” stated that the SMM would need a “DPR” escort if it planned to re-enter “DPR” controlled territory. The commander which had originally threatened the SMM stated that he would only allow the SMM in the eastern part of Shyrokyne upon receiving specific instructions from his superior.

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