Latest from OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) to Ukraine based on information received as of 18:00 (Kyiv time), 29 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 areas around Donetsk airport and Shyrokyne.

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

On 29 March, upon arrival* at the observation point in front of the destroyed new terminal of Donetsk airport (10km north-west of Donetsk city centre), the SMM discovered decomposed human remains in an unidentifiable military-style uniform, laying on the roadside 300m east of SMM’s observation point. The SMM visited the nearby Joint Centre for Control and Co-ordination (JCCC) office at the railway station and informed the JCCC. Furthermore, near the observation point, the SMM discovered a grenade on a trip wire attached to a luggage trolley. A “Donetsk People’s Republic” (“DPR”) member dismantled the explosive device.

While in the area of Donetsk airport* the SMM heard one explosion at a distance of approximately 1-2km north of its position. The SMM assessed it to be an outgoing 82mm mortar. Earlier on 28 March, from an observation point in front of the destroyed new terminal of Donetsk airport, between 10:58 and 11:11hrs, the SMM heard two outgoing bursts of heavy machine gun and five single shots of heavy machine gun, three single shots of small arms and one shot of an under-barrel grenade launcher from approximately 500-700m north of its position; at 11:00hrs the SMM heard two explosions at a distance of approximately 2-5km west of its position. The SMM could not ascertain the exact distance, the type of weapons or whether the fire was incoming or outgoing. At 11:03hrs the SMM heard one outgoing mortar round, calibre unknown, fired from approximately 1-2km east of its position; at 11:19hrs the SMM heard two explosions at a distance of approximately 2-5km south of its position. The SMM could not ascertain the exact distance, the type of weapons or whether the fire was incoming or outgoing. On 28 March, between 15:20 and 15.55hrs, while in Donetsk city centre*, the SMM heard approximately 40 explosions consistent with incoming and outgoing artillery and mortar rounds, 10-20km north-west of its position. The SMM could not ascertain the calibre of the mortar rounds.

While in government-controlled Avdiivka (14km north-west of Donetsk) the SMM received information from the chief of the Emergency Situation and Civil Protection Service that shelling had occurred at 12:00hrs in a residential area. At the scene, the SMM found parts of the munitions and assessed that the impact was most likely caused by anti-tank guided missiles. The SMM also assessed based on a crater analysis that the anti-tank missile came from an easterly direction. While at the scene, the SMM heard one incoming explosion approximately 3-4km south of its position. The SMM could not ascertain the exact distance or the type of weapon used.

Starting in the late afternoon of 27 March, the SMM observed escalating fighting in Shyrokyne, (See SMM Spot Report Escalation of the situation in Shyrokyne and SMM aggressively treated at “DPR” checkpoint at Shyrokyne, 28 March). On 28 March while at an observation point in the northern part of Sopyne (government-controlled, 3.5km west of Shyrokyne, 16km east of Mariupol) at 15:15hrs, the SMM heard three mortar shells east of its position, but due to the strong wind, was unable to identify whether it was incoming, outgoing, nor could it determine the calibre. On 29 March, while at an observation point at the eastern outskirts of Berdianske (government-controlled, 1.5km west of Shyrokyne, 19km east of Mariupol) the SMM twice heard tank fire at 10:50hrs, but could not determine origin, distance or direction. At 11:55hrs the SMM heard four mortar shells originating east of its position, but could not ascertain the calibre, origin, distance or direction. From 12:05 to 12:30hrs, the SMM heard over 30 mortar shells, though it could not ascertain the calibre, originating east of its position, which the SMM assessed as mostly outgoing and impacting in and around Shyrokyne. At around 15:00hrs, heavy exchanges of fire started and the SMM heard different sets of shells from mortars of different calibres and automatic grenade launchers, heavy machine-gun and sporadic small arms fire. The direction was identified as northeast of SMM’s position, consistent with the area in and around Shyrokyne. Between 15:55 and 16:20hrs, the SMM heard twelve incoming mortar shells, though it could not ascertain the calibre, fired from northeast of its position. From 16:20hrs onwards, the area suddenly became quiet and the SMM did not hear or observe any ceasefire violations up until it left the area at 17:00hrs.

On 28 March, the SMM visited the government-controlled checkpoint at Novotoshkivske (53km north-west of Luhansk) to monitor a location 8km north-west of the checkpoint, where Grad shelling had allegedly occurred in the night of 27 March. When the SMM was at the scene, only the Ukrainian Armed Forces JCCC representatives from Starobilsk were present. The SMM observed at least 20 craters in a field, which appeared to have been caused by Grad missiles. The craters, which suggested that the fire came from a south-easterly direction, were fresh.

On 27 March, in the village of Nyzhnoderevechka (“Lugansk People’s Republic” (“LPR”)-controlled, 52km south-east of Luhansk) an inhabitant informed the SMM that there was an “LPR” explosive ordnance disposal team operating in the close vicinity of the village, removing unexploded ordnances. The SMM visited* the area and observed several 120mm and larger calibre shells on the ground, which had the fuses removed. There were also numerous ammunition boxes scattered on the ground, some of which were closed.

On 27 March, the SMM met with Russian Federation and Ukrainian Armed Forces representatives at the JCCC office in Luhansk city to enquire on the possibility to receive details on the locations of heavy weapon holding areas on “LPR”-controlled territory. However, the SMM did not receive such information. JCCC personnel informed the SMM that the JCCC had shared a proposal concerning the withdrawal of tanks (MBT) and 82mm mortars, with the “LPR” and the “DPR”. The interlocutors told the SMM that a request was submitted from the “LPR” side to the JCCC HQ in Soledar to repair the destroyed bridge in government-controlled Stanytsia Luhanska (16km north-east of Luhansk).

On 28 March, the SMM visited the bridge in Stanytsia Luhanska to facilitate a meeting between “LPR” members and Ukrainian Armed Forces representatives, to discuss the possibility of their co-operation in reconstructing the bridge to make it usable for pedestrian traffic. The SMM observed a wooden structure on the “LPR” side of the bridge to allow commuters to reach the government side of the bridge. Ukrainian Armed Forces representatives offered to make a construction of solid wood. The “LPR” side agreed with this proposal. They also discussed the possible locations of checkpoints on both sides. However on this issue, they stated that a decision should be made by higher level commanders.

The SMM revisited four Ukrainian Armed Forces heavy weapon holding areas, all compliant with the respective withdrawal lines, and was able to confirm that all weapons previously recorded were in situ. In one case, access was denied to one holding area on 28 March, but granted again the following day. On 29 March SMM revisited* one holding area in “DPR”-controlled territory and found all the weapons previously recorded in situ. The SMM also visited* one “DPR”-controlled holding area for the first time. SMM noted the identification numbers of the weapons. Both areas are compliant with the respective withdrawal lines. The SMM visited one holding area in “LPR”-controlled territory. The location was compliant with the withdrawal lines.

In an area near of government-controlled Volnovakha, the SMM observed five 152mm self-propelled howitzers (2S19 ‘Msta-S’) stationary at a location from which they should have been withdrawn. These had not been included in the list of heavy weapons in accordance with the Minsk package of measures, previously provided to the SMM. On 28 March, the SMM observed an MT-12 100mm anti-tank gun in the area of government-controlled Zolote and two main battle tanks (MBT) in the area of government-controlled Hirske. On 28 March, in the area of “LPR”-controlled Krasnyi Luch, the SMM observed twelve self-propelled howitzers (2S1 Gvozdika 122mm). In the area of government-controlled Chabanivka the SMM spotted two Ural trucks with 122mm BM-21 Grad MLRS. Near Novotoshkivske, the SMM observed also one dug in MBT T64.

On 28 March the SMM monitored a rally in Dnepropetrovsk (on Heroes of Maidan Square, formerly Lenin Square), under the slogan “Dnipro for Ukraine”. The event was organized by the regional administration to mark the tenure of outgoing governor Ihor Kolomoiskyi. A number of speakers addressed the crowd, including members of the previous regional administration, as well as representatives from non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Representatives of the "Aidar", "Kryvbass" and "20th" volunteer battalions were also present. According to the police, several thousand people attended the rally. Mr Kolomoiskyi appeared via video link and made a short speech. He said that over the last year Dnepropetrovsk had managed to stop the “separatist spirit” from spreading into the region.

On 26 March the SMM met the chairman of the Kherson Regional Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar people based in the village of Novooleksiivka (162km south-east of Kherson) of Henichesk district, the informal centre for Crimean Tatars in mainland Ukraine. The pressure exerted on the Crimea-based Crimean Tatar TV channel “ATR” by the de facto authorities was one of the topics discussed at the meeting. According to Crimean Tatar activists, “ATR” was unable to obtain registration from Roskomnadzor (Russia’s Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media) and, along with the children’s TV channel “Lale” and radio station “Meydan”, was facing closure on 1 April.

On 29 March the SMM monitored in Lviv a meeting of approximately 20 women who had lost their relatives, servicemen of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, during the “Anti-Terrorist Operation” in the eastern part of Ukraine. The meeting was organized by volunteers of the local NGO Union of Ukrainian Women at the premises the Museum of History and Religion in Lviv. The meeting focussed on self-organization and exploring ways how to earn a living following the loss of their families’ breadwinners.

The SMM continued to monitor the situation in Kharkiv, Odessa, Chernivtsi, Ivano-Frankivsk, 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 cease-fire 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:

-While approaching Volnovakha (government-controlled, 52km south-south-west of Donetsk) from the north, at the first two government-controlled checkpoints SMM was requested to reveal nationalities of the patrol members and allowed to continue without delay. At the last government-controlled checkpoint before entering Volnovakha, the SMM, after providing the requested details of IDs, names and nationalities, had to wait 27 minutes for permission to pass, as the checkpoint personnel communicated with their superiors. At the same checkpoint, on its way back, the SMM had to wait for 25 minutes. Both times, while waiting, SMM observed the civilian traffic moving unobstructed through the checkpoint.

-From Donetsk airport, the SMM planned to continue its patrol and monitor the situation in Petrovskyi district (20km south-west of Donetsk city centre), however could not proceed, as “DPR” “police” escort refused to continue, stating that the destination was not on the patrol plan and requested to return to the SMM office.

-En route to Hranitne (63km south of Donetsk, 47km north-northeast of Mariupol), near the Yanisol cement factory located some 3.5km west of the entrance of Hranitne, the SMM was stopped by a mobile checkpoint manned by Ukrainian Armed Forces personnel and was not allowed to proceed any further.

-On 28 March, the SMM stopped at the “DPR” checkpoint on the northern edge of the village of Shyrokyne. There, a “DPR” member denied passage to the SMM and aggressively asked the SMM to leave the area. He also fired three shots in the air as the SMM was leaving. (See also SMM Spot Report 28 March).

-On 28 March, at the “LPR” checkpoint in Krasnyi Luch (55km south-west of Luhansk), located 4km north of the city, an armed individual without any insignia, asked the SMM to show their ID cards and to report their nationality. The SMM was then allowed to proceed.


Michael Bociurkiw
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