Latest from OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) to Ukraine based on information received as of 18:00 (Kyiv time), 8 April 2015

Situation Report
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This report is for the media and general public.

The SMM monitored the implementation of the “Package of measures for the Implementation of the Minsk agreements” which was restricted by third parties and by security considerations. The SMM observed ceasefire violations in the Donetsk region, especially around Donetsk airport, while in the area of Shyrokyne it observed sporadic mortar and small-arms and light-weapons exchanges. The SMM revisited three “DPR” and four Ukrainian Armed Forces heavy weapons holding areas.*

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

Between 10:34 and 11:43hrs, while stationary at the Joint Centre for Control and Co-ordination (JCCC) observation post at Donetsk railway station (“Donetsk People’s Republic” (“DPR”)-controlled, 8km north-west of Donetsk city centre), the SMM heard 40 explosions from 3-6km west-north-west of its location. The SMM could not determine the type of weapons used for all of the explosions but assessed that most of them were caused by automatic grenade launcher rounds. The SMM could not ascertain if these were incoming or outgoing.

At 12:49hrs, while stationary at the parking lot near the destroyed new terminal building of Donetsk airport (“DPR”-controlled, 11km north-west of Donetsk) the SMM heard one explosion, consistent with an outgoing medium calibre mortar round, from 1km west of its position. Shortly afterwards, the SMM heard another explosion, from 1km north-west of its position, consistent with an incoming round, presumably of the same weapon type. At 13:01hrs, the SMM heard one explosion, consistent with an incoming round of undetermined weapon type, from 2-3km east of its position. At 13:05hrs, the SMM heard another explosion of undetermined origin from 3-4km east-north-east of its position. The SMM could not specify the type of weapon or whether the explosion was caused by incoming or outgoing round.

In Vuhlehirsk (“DPR”-controlled, 50km north-east of Donetsk,) the SMM talked to a group of elderly residents – two males and four females - who informed that the situation was calm and stable since mid-February, but that many buildings had been completely damaged by street fighting. While there, the SMM observed significant damage. Two interlocutors complained of unpaid pensions and rising food prices. A small clinic was observed providing medical care. The interlocutors reported that some farmers were afraid to start farming because of minefields. They spoke of an incident in a nearby village when one person was killed and another received injuries while crossing a field.

Between 14:57 and 15:30hrs, in Berdianske (2km west of Shyrokyne, 20km east of Mariupol) the SMM observed eight outgoing tank shells from south to north, fired from government-controlled territory two kilometres east of the SMM’s position. The SMM heard 15 rounds of outgoing 82mm mortar originating from government-controlled territory 400 to 500 meters north-east of its position and sporadic outgoing small-arms fire. At 16:16hrs the SMM heard five mortar shells outgoing from east of its location, from the Shyrokyne area, and impacting to the north of the SMM’s location. The SMM then heard at least 30 rounds from an automatic grenade launcher fired from east of its position, but could not ascertain the exact origin and did not hear the detonations.

At a location close to Zuhres (“DPR”-controlled, 35km east of Donetsk), the SMM observed eight stationary T-72 main battle tanks at the road side. The turrets of the tanks were facing west and their engines were running. There were also military personnel on top of the tanks and Novorossiya flags.

In the Luhansk region, over the reporting period, the SMM did not observe any ceasefire violations.

In government-controlled Stanytsia Luhanska (16km north-east of Luhansk), the SMM observed a constant flow of civilians using the makeshift footbridge to cross the river. The SMM spoke to an elderly individual who was waiting on the government-controlled side of the bridge to deliver food to his son, who currently lives in “Lugansk People’s Republic” (“LPR”)-controlled territory.

While in government-controlled Trokhizbenka (33km north-west of Luhansk), the SMM spoke to some inhabitants who stressed the importance of moving back and forth across the contact line to visit family members, churches, and the cemetery.

In “LPR”-controlled Pershozvanivka, (27km south of Luhansk), interlocutors from the village council told the SMM that fields surrounding the village were mined or contaminated with unexploded ordnance (UXOs) and this would most likely jeopardize this year’s harvest. They also said that humanitarian aid may need to be increased because of this shortfall.

The SMM revisited three “DPR” and four Ukrainian Armed Forces heavy weapons holding areas. At the “DPR” sites, the SMM was escorted by a “DPR” member. All three locations comply with the withdrawal lines relevant for the heavy weaponry stored. At two “DPR” holding areas, the SMM was able to verify that the weapons previously recorded were in situ. At one holding area, the SMM observed that compared to the previous records, last taken by the SMM on 2 April, one towed howitzer was missing. The “DPR” member accompanying the SMM stated the missing howitzer was taken away for training purposes, without providing any further details. At all four Ukrainian heavy weapons holding areas, the SMM was able to confirm that all weapons were in place.

The SMM visited Zmiiv (39km south-east of Kharkiv) to follow up on an explosion at a nearby segment of the railway reported by media on 7 April. According to railway personnel in Zmiiv, the explosives had detonated at around midnight in the area between Zhykhar and Zmiiv. No casualties were reported, however, there was material damage to a 0.6 meter section of the railway line. An approaching freight train had to stop but was not derailed. In the early hours the railway was repaired and the rail traffic through this section was restored. The SMM could not access the site since it is in an impassable area in the forest. Police both in Zmiiv and Kharkiv confirmed the incident to the SMM but did not give further details saying that the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) was in charge of the investigation. The SMM also contacted the regional prosecutor's office and was told that the incident is qualified according to Article 113 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine as sabotage.

In Dnepropetrovsk on 8 April the SMM followed up on media reports according to which a Skif special purpose police battalion vehicle had come under gunfire the previous day near Rozivka (192km south-east of Dnepropetrovsk, Zaporizhzhia region). The SMM contacted the commander of the Skif battalion and the press officer of the SBU in Zaporizhzhia. According to the interlocutors, the incident occurred between 11.40 and 11.50hrs while a combined patrol of the Skif battalion and Ukrainian Armed Forces was in the area of Rozivka in order to prevent possible weapons smuggling from the conflict zone via secondary roads. The patrol was shot at with a grenade launcher and an AK-47 assault rifle. While the grenade missed the target, three bullets from AK-47 hit the Skif battalion vehicle. No one was injured. The patrol members then went to the location from where they thought the gunfire originated and found an abandoned AK-47 and a grenade launcher with two grenades. Police and the SBU are investigating the incident as a terrorist act, under Article 258 of the Criminal Code.

On 8 April, members of the Aidar volunteer battalion organized a demonstration in front of the General Prosecutor’s Office in Kyiv demanding the dismissal of the Chief Military Prosecutor. Approximately 100 people, mostly men between the ages of 25 and 55, including 16 in military uniforms, participated in the protest. They accused the Military Prosecutor of detaining members of the Aidar battalion and mentioned specifically a case in which five members of the battalion had been charged with desertion. The picket was held in a peaceful atmosphere in the presence of three police officers.

The SMM continued to monitor the situation in Kherson, Odessa, Chernivtsi, Ivano-Frankivsk and Lviv.

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.

  • At the Volnovakha checkpoint, Ukrainian Armed Forces personnel asked the SMM for names, nationalities and the route and purpose of their journey, before allowing them to proceed.

  • Before the entrance to government-controlled Hranitne (59km south of Donetsk) the SMM was stopped at a Ukrainian Armed Forces checkpoint and was not allowed to enter Hranitne due to the security situation in the village. After waiting for 60 minutes, the SMM travelled to Myrne (government-controlled, 62km south-west of Donetsk). One kilometre before Myrne, the SMM was stopped at a checkpoint by two Ukrainian Armed Forces soldiers who wrote down the names of the monitors and the SMM vehicle license plates and then let the SMM pass.

  • The SMM was stopped at a Ukrainian Armed Forces checkpoint three kilometres west of Starohnativka (government-controlled, 50km south of Donetsk) and was denied access to the village.

  • At the checkpoint located at the entrance of government-controlled Makarove (19km north east of Luhansk), Ukrainian Armed Forces personnel asked the SMM about the nationalities of monitors.

  • In “LPR”-controlled Ohulchansk (26km east of Luhansk) the SMM was stopped at a mobile checkpoint manned by armed members of the “LPR” who said that they had received an order from the “LPR” “border guard service” not to permit the SMM to travel in areas located within a 15km distance from the “LPR”-controlled segment of the border between Ukraine and the Russian Federation. They said that the SMM must receive an authorisation from the “LPR” “ministry of state security” and if authorization was granted, the SMM would need to pre-arrange escorts through the “border guard commander”. An “LPR” member recorded the names of the SMM monitors, ID numbers and the number plates of the OSCE vehicles and escorted the SMM back towards the exit of Ohulchansk village.

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