Latest from OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) to Ukraine, based on information received as of 19:30hrs, 29 February 2016

Situation Report
Originally published

The SMM observed a significantly higher number of ceasefire violations in Donetsk region than the previous day, and mostly training-related ones in Luhansk region. It continued to monitor the withdrawal of weapons. The Mission facilitated and monitored repair work on both sides of the contact line. The SMM encountered three freedom-of-movement restrictions, both in areas of Donetsk region not controlled by the Government.* The SMM noted reduced waiting times for crossing points on the contact line. It monitored public gatherings in Kyiv and Odessa.

The SMM observed a significant increase in ceasefire violations in Donetsk region[1] as compared with the previous day. In the evening of 28 February whilst in “DPR”-controlled Donetsk city centre, the SMM recorded 95 undetermined explosions west of its position. While positioned at the “DPR”-controlled Donetsk central railway station (6km north-west of Donetsk city centre), on 29 February the SMM heard more than 174 explosions assessed as caused by artillery and mortar rounds; two undetermined blasts and impacts; 25-35 single shots and hundreds of rounds fired from a range of weapons including small arms, light and heavy machine-guns, 30mm cannons, and automatic grenade launchers from distances of 0.5-10km from the south, west, south-south-west, north, north-north-east, and north-north-west of its position.

During the evening and night hours of 28-29 February whilst in government-controlled Svitlodarsk (57km north-east of Donetsk), the SMM recorded 54 undetermined explosions and 50 single shots of small arms 4km south-east of its position. Whilst 2km north-west of “DPR”-controlled Debaltseve (58km north-east of Donetsk), on 29 February the SMM heard ten undetermined explosions 8km north-west of its position.

In “DPR”-controlled Oleksandrivka (19km south-west of Donetsk), over a two-hour span, the SMM recorded 43 undetermined explosions and six bursts of 23mm cannon fire at locations 3-7km west, north-west, and north of its position. Whilst near “DPR”-controlled Petrovskyi district (16km south-west of Donetsk), the SMM heard 21 undetermined explosions and 34 bursts and 50 single shots of small arms south-west and west of its position. Over the course of two hours, whilst in government-controlled Marinka (23km south-east of Donetsk), the SMM heard 23 undetermined explosions and 21 bursts of small-arms and heavy-machine-gun fire 1-2km north-east and 38 undetermined explosions and 15 shots from an automatic grenade launcher 3-6km north-east of its position.

In the vicinity of “DPR”-controlled Zaichenko (26km north-east of Mariupol), over a two-hour period the SMM recorded over 50 undetermined explosions and intensive firing from mortar, artillery, and small arms approximately 4km west of its position.

In Luhansk region, the SMM observed ceasefire violations near government-controlled Trokhizbenka (33km north-west of Luhansk), which it attributed to live-fire exercises. Whilst positioned 2km north-west of government-controlled Troitske (69km west of Luhansk) over the course of an hour, the SMM observed an anti-aircraft gun (ZU-23), approximately 200-300m west of its position, firing several bursts at unknown targets to the south-east; heard two undetermined explosions 5-7km west of its position; and heard 11 undetermined explosions 5-10km to the east of its position.

In relation to the implementation of the Addendum to the Package of Measures, the SMM revisited Ukrainian Armed Forces permanent storage sites whose locations corresponded with the withdrawal lines and noted that all weapons verified as withdrawn to the sites were present. The SMM also noted additionally the presence of two tanks and three mortars, and that their serial numbers were not included in the inventory list.

In violation of respective withdrawal lines, on 26 February an SMM unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) spotted 12 tanks in an open-area depot in “DPR”-controlled Donetsk city.

The SMM continued to monitor the withdrawal of heavy weapons foreseen in the Minsk Package of Measures. The SMM has yet to receive the full information requested in the 16 October 2015 notification. The SMM revisited locations known to the SMM as heavy weapons holding areas, though they do not comply with the specific criteria set out for permanent storage sites in the 16 October 2015 notification.

In government-controlled areas beyond the respective withdrawal lines, the SMM revisited such locations and observed 12 multiple-launch rocket systems (BM-21 Grad, 122mm) and ten self-propelled howitzers (2S3 Akatsiya, 152mm). The SMM noted that two previously recorded self-propelled howitzers (2S3 Akatsiya, 152mm) were missing.

In violation of respective withdrawal lines, an SMM UAV on 24 February spotted an SA-8 tactical surface-to-air missile launcher (9K33 Osa, 210mm) in a government-controlled area close to Zaitseve (50km north-east of Donetsk). On 26 February, an SMM UAV spotted one self-propelled howitzer in an open-area depot in Donetsk city.

Beyond respective withdrawal lines but outside storage sites, the SMM observed one self-propelled howitzer (2S3, Akatsiya, 152mm) being transported on a truck in the vicinity of government-controlled Sievierodonetsk (74km north-west of Luhansk); and six stationary, self-propelled howitzers (2S1, Gvozdika, 122mm) near “LPR”-controlled Uspenka (23km south-west of Luhansk).

The SMM continued to observe signs of mines and unexploded ordnance (UXO). Between “DPR”-controlled Olenivka (23km south of Donetsk) and government-controlled Novotroitske (36km south-west of Donetsk) on road H-20 the SMM observed fields on both sides of the road marked with improvised signs such as wooden sticks with plastic bags, as well as white wooden boards with the word MINE written in Russian in red lettering.

The SMM continued to facilitate and monitor adherence to the ceasefire to enable repairs to essential infrastructure, namely repair work to water pipelines near “LPR”-controlled Krasnyi Lyman (30km north-west of Luhansk) on both sides of the contact line. The SMM observed a repair crew working without obstruction.

The SMM continued to observe checkpoints along the contact line, noting that at the bridge near government-controlled Stanytsia Luhanska (16km north-east of Luhansk) there was no waiting time to cross the bridge in either direction. The SMM observed a computerized document verification process at the Ukrainian checkpoint for civilians entering government-controlled areas and noted that the verification process took as little as two minutes. At a Ukrainian Armed Forces checkpoint near Marinka, the SMM observed a total of 283 civilian vehicles and approximately 125 pedestrians queuing to enter into government-controlled areas. The SMM observed 57 civilian vehicles queuing to leave government-controlled areas. At a checkpoint in Olenivka, the SMM observed 73 civilian vehicles queuing to enter government-controlled areas and 46 civilian cars queuing to travel in the other direction.

The SMM monitored a number of public gatherings. In Kyiv, the SMM observed a peaceful commemoration in front of the embassy of the Russian Federation on the first anniversary of the murder of Russian politician Boris Nemtsov. There were 40-45 demonstrators and ten National Guard and four police officers at the scene; the event ended peacefully.

At Kulykove Pole in Odessa, the SMM observed a demonstration of 200 activists (between the ages of 20-40 years, 75% men, more than half wearing camouflage) protesting what they said were Ukrainian and Russian oligarchic business interests in Ukraine. Amongst those who spoke to the crowd were two Members of Parliament affiliated with the People’s Front party. The SMM observed approximately 75 police and National Guard officers, and eight mini-buses of anti-riot police (minimum of 60 officers) on standby. The event ended without incident.

The SMM followed up on reports of cargo trucks with Russian Federation license plates being blocked at Porubne border crossing point (35km south of Chernivtsi) at the Ukrainian-Romanian border (see Daily Report 29 February 2016). Whilst at the crossing point, the SMM observed 20 trucks, including two with Russian Federation registration plates, queuing to enter Ukraine. A Ukrainian border guard shift commander told the SMM that there were no restrictions for Russian Federation-registered trucks and added that in the last 24 hours over 100 trucks had entered Ukraine from Romania including six with Russian Federation license plates. She also contradicted information provided to the SMM by three Svoboda activists that border guards had given assurances to them that no Russian Federation-registered trucks would be allowed to enter Ukraine, saying that no such assurances were given.

An advisor to the Head of the Dnepropetrovsk Regional State Administration told the SMM that of the 25,000 soldiers recruited from Dnepropetrovsk region, 10,500 have been de-mobilized. According to him, 421 members of the Ukrainian Armed Forces and volunteer battalions from the region had been killed in the conflict.

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

Restrictions to SMM’s freedom of movement or other impediments to the fulfilment of its mandate

The SMM is restrained in fulfilling its monitoring functions by restrictions imposed by the parties and security considerations, including mine threats, damaged infrastructure, and the unpredictability of the situation in Donbas.

Conditional access:

At a checkpoint near Olenivka armed men insisted on seeing national passports of SMM monitors before allowing the SMM to proceed. The SMM showed their passports, but immediately notified the JCCC about the incident. The SMM was subsequently allowed to pass. Delay:

The SMM was delayed for 21 minutes at a checkpoint between “DPR”-controlled Kominternove (23km north-east of Mariupol) and Zaichenko when armed men demanded to see the SMM’s patrol plan. The SMM refused to provide the plan and called the JCCC to negotiate access, after which the SMM was allowed to pass. Other impediments:

On 29 February the SMM long-range UAV encountered GPS jamming on multiple occasions while flying over the wider area of “DPR”-controlled Debaltseve (58km north-east of Donetsk).

[1] For a complete breakdown of the ceasefire violations, please see the annexed table.

  • Please see the section at the end of this report entitled “Restrictions to SMM’s freedom of movement or other impediments to the fulfilment of its mandate”.

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