Latest from OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) to Ukraine, based on information received as of 19:30hrs, 6 March 2016

This report is for the media and general public.

The SMM observed an increase in ceasefire violations in Donetsk region on both 5 and 6 March. The situation remained stable in Luhansk. It continued to monitor the withdrawal of weapons. The SMM did not observe any live-fire exercises. The Mission facilitated and monitored demining and repair work on both sides of the contact line, monitored the humanitarian situation near the contact line, and continued to observe signs of mines and unexploded ordnance (UXO). The SMM encountered numerous freedom-of-movement restrictions, mainly in areas not controlled by the Government,and reached six border crossing points not controlled by the Government. In Kyiv, approximately 1,000 people gathered on Maidan Square in support of Nadiya Savchenko and approximately 250 protestors later were observed in a protest in front of the Russian Embassy during which damage was caused to the building.*

The SMM observed numerous ceasefire violations in Donetsk region [1], continuing to monitor a high level of kinetic activity, in particular along the western outskirts of Donetsk city. During the night of 4-5 March, while positioned in Donetsk city centre, the SMM heard 52 undetermined explosions 5-10km north-west and 19 undetermined explosions 5-10km south-west of its position. The next morning, the SMM heard a total of over 100 explosions from positions in and around Donetsk city, the most significant episodes including 30 undetermined explosions 5-7km east of “DPR”-controlled Oleksandrivka (20km south-west of Donetsk), 55 undetermined grenade and mortar explosions (mainly 120mm mortars) 1.5-5km south-south-east to south-west of government-controlled Kamianka (20km north of Donetsk), and 26 undetermined explosions 1.5-8km south-west of “DPR”-controlled Yasynuvata (16km north-east of Donetsk). The SMM heard and felt an 82mm mortar impact 60-100m from its position at a water filtration station near Yasynuvata. The situation was quieter during the afternoon and evening 5 March but spiked again throughout the early morning and afternoon of 6 March, this time around Donetsk airport, with nearly 100 undetermined explosions heard from the SMM’s position at the Donetsk central railway station. The explosions were heard mostly at locations approximately 3-6km north, north-west and north-east of the railway station but also to the west and east. The SMM also heard over 55 airbursts from anti-aircraft guns 2.5-3km north-north-east of the railway station.

The situation in and around “DPR”-controlled Horlivka (39km north-east of Donetsk) also remained volatile. The SMM recorded in total more than 120 explosions from the afternoon of 4 March to the evening of 5 March in the area. During the evening hours of 4 March, in government-controlled Svitlodarsk (57km north-east of Donetsk), the SMM heard 34 automatic grenade launcher impacts, 13 undetermined mortar explosions, one undetermined artillery explosion, and more than 100 heavy-machine-gun and small-arms bursts 2-5km south-east, south-west and north-east of its position. The situation remained quieter during the day but flared up again in the evening of 5 March. Approximately 2km south-east and 4km north-east of its position in Svitlodarsk, the SMM heard 27 automatic grenade launcher rounds (17 incoming and ten outgoing), 17 mortar explosions (five impacts, 12 undetermined) and over 50 heavy-machine-gun and small-arms bursts. The SMM also heard more than 40 explosions north-east of Horlivka from positions in Luhansk region along the contact line throughout the day on 5 March. The most significant incident was observed close to midday when the SMM heard more than 20 undetermined explosions 10km south-west of its position in government-controlled Troitske (69km west of Luhansk).

In Luhansk region, the situation remained relatively calm with a low number of ceasefire violations recorded on 5 March, including in government-controlled Shchastia (20km north of Luhansk) and Stanytsia Luhanska (16km north-east of Luhansk). The SMM recorded no ceasefire violations in Luhansk region on 6 March.

In relation to the implementation of the Addendum to the Package of Measures, the SMM revisited Ukrainian Armed Forces permanent storage sites and noted that two tanks (T-72) and 11 mortars were missing (five 2B9 Vasilek, 82mm, and six 2B11 Sani, 120mm).

In violation of the respective withdrawal lines, the SMM observed three mortars being transported south near government-controlled Raihorodka (34km north-west of Luhansk).

Beyond the withdrawal lines but outside storage sites, the SMM observed a convoy of four military trucks equipped with multiple-launch rocket systems (BM-21 Grad, 122mm) travelling west near government-controlled Krasnoarmiisk (55km north-west of Donetsk).

The SMM continued to monitor the withdrawal of heavy weapons as 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 visited an “LPR” permanent storage site and found six additional anti-tank guns (MT-12 Rapira, 100mm) present. Seven towed howitzers (D-20, 122mm) were absent.

The SMM revisited locations known to the SMM as heavy weapons holding areas, even 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 a location and observed six towed howitzers (2A36 Giatsint-B, 152mm).

In “DPR”-controlled areas beyond the respective withdrawal lines, the SMM revisited such locations and observed that six self-propelled howitzers (2S1 Gvozdika, 122mm) were present but an armed guard did not allow the SMM to record the serial numbers of the weapons, citing orders from his superiors. At other areas, the SMM observed two towed howitzers (D30, 122mm) and six self-propelled howitzers (2S1 Gvozdika, 122mm).

At a training area in “LPR”-controlled Myrne (27km south-west of Luhansk), the SMM observed no training activities or military equipment present on 5 March. The same day, at a training site near government-controlled Trokhizbenka (33km north-west of Luhansk), the SMM observed Ukrainian Armed Forces personnel clearing the area. A commander at the site told the SMM that he had been informed that no more exercises would be held starting from 7 March. On 6 March, the SMM observed a demining team clearing the remnants of live-fire exercises at the training area. Local residents (one 70-year-old woman and four men aged approximately 55-70) in “LPR”-controlled Yurivka (26km south-west of Luhansk), complained to the SMM about the recent intensification of training in nearby “LPR”-controlled Shymshynivka training area (28km south-west of Luhansk). On 6 March, in “DPR”-controlled Komsomolske, the SMM observed a training area with targets for rifles or pistols, mortar fire markings and truck tracks leading to the location.

The SMM continued to facilitate and monitor adherence to the ceasefire to enable repairs to essential infrastructure. On 5 March, the SMM observed repair work being performed to a gas pipeline north of government-controlled Marinka (23km south-west of Donetsk). On the same day, the SMM also monitored repair work to electricity power supply lines between government-controlled Artemove (42km north-east of Donetsk) and Horlivka. The SMM eventually left the area due to the close proximity of incoming explosions, including three 82mm mortar impacts approximately 800m south-east of its position. The SMM was able to return to the area on 6 March and observed that work continued during the day without similar interruptions. On 6 March, while monitoring repair work to a gas pipeline in “DPR”-controlled Petrovskyi district of Donetsk city (20km south-west of Donetsk city centre), the SMM heard 20 bursts and nine single shots of small-arms fire approximately 500m west of its position. “DPR” members present at the site told the SMM that the weapons were likely being fired from neighbouring “DPR” forward positions.

The SMM continued to observe the presence of mines and UXO. On 5 March, the SMM observed five unexploded 82mm mortar shells on the asphalt for the first time, between “LPR”-controlled Krasnyi Lyman (30km north-west of Luhansk) and Trokhizbenka on road T1315. In “DPR”-controlled Olenivka (23km south-west of Donetsk), the SMM observed a sign with the word “MINES” adjacent to a “DPR”-controlled checkpoint. In “DPR”-controlled Yasne (30km south-west of Donetsk), the SMM observed a sign with the word “MINES” posted adjacent to the position of a group of armed men. The SMM also noted “MINE” signs on the west side of highway T0509 near government-controlled Olhynka (40km south-west of Donetsk); near “DPR”-controlled Styla (34km south of Donetsk), along a dirt trail going south off of the same highway; and numerous mine warning signs in “DPR”-controlled Petrivske (41km south of Donetsk).

The SMM continued to note obstacles for civilians in crossing checkpoints along the contact line. On 5 March, both a Russian Federation Armed Forces and Ukrainian Armed Forces representative at the JCCC told the SMM that the Marinka checkpoints would be closed due to ceasefire violations in their vicinity. While the checkpoints were closed by the afternoon, the SMM had observed an unusually high number of travellers attempting to pass through the area in the morning: 552 vehicles and 100 pedestrians travelling east and 261 vehicles and 50 pedestrians travelling west. On 6 March, the SMM observed a significantly lower level of traffic with only ten civilian vehicles heading west and three civilian vehicles heading east at one government-controlled checkpoint, and 37 west-bound vehicles and 68 east-bound vehicles at a second one.

The SMM continued to monitor the humanitarian situation in villages near the contact line. Several residents of “LPR”-controlled parts of Zolote (60km north-west of Luhansk) told the SMM that they regularly crossed into government-controlled areas to purchase otherwise scarce food products. A pensioner (woman, mid-60s) in “LPR”-controlled Liubyme (77km south of Luhansk), told the SMM that there were no shops operating in the village and bread was delivered to the village three days per week. In “LPR”-controlled Bile (22km south-west of Luhansk), the SMM spoke with 24 women (40-70 years old) and five men (40-60 years old) who explained that most of them had stopped receiving their pensions in July 2015 and that there was a lack of employment opportunities due to the closing of mines. In government-controlled Staryi Aidar (20km north-west of Luhansk), a local shopkeeper (woman) stated that the economic situation in the village was difficult, especially as many people who previously had worked in Luhansk city are unemployed and the reduced operation of the Shchastia power plant (government-controlled, 20km north of Luhansk) has further reduced employment opportunities. The staff of the electric company in “LPR”-controlled Pervomaisk (57km west of Luhansk) told the SMM that there continued to be a lack of electricity in Novooleksandrivka.

On 5 and 6 March, the SMM visited six non-government-controlled border crossing points. In Dibrivka (92km south-east of Donetsk) and Marynivka (78km east of Donetsk) the situation was calm and no pedestrians were observed crossing the border. At the border crossing point in Uspenka (73km south-east of Donetsk), 27 vehicles and seven civilian trucks were waiting to cross the border. One driver said he had been waiting for approximately seven hours, since 05:00hrs [2]. At the border crossing point in Krasnodarskyi (57km south-east of Luhansk), the SMM observed up to 40 civilian cars parked near the crossing point (one-third had Russian Federation plates and two-thirds Ukrainian plates). An “LPR” member told the SMM that holders of recently issued “LPR” “passports” were allowed to cross into the Russian Federation, however, according to him, only a few people hold such “documents”. At a border crossing point in Novoborovytsi (79km south of Luhansk), the SMM observed as ten pedestrians crossed the border from the Russian Federation, and no “LPR” members were present. A man (mid-40s) told the SMM that a Russian Federation border guard had warned travellers that it would not be possible in the future to cross at this border point with “LPR” “passports”. At a border crossing point in Dolzhanskyi (84km south of Luhansk), the SMM observed approximately 50 civilian vehicles waiting to cross into the Russian Federation.

On 6 March, the SMM observed as over 1,000 people (mixed age and gender) held a public gathering on Maidan Square in Kyiv in support of Nadiya Savchenko. Many participants held handwritten signs with the words “Free Savchenko” on them. No police officers were seen near the event. Approximately 250 of the protestors later moved to the Russian Embassy to demand the release of Savchenko. Several of the protesters were wearing full or mixed military-type clothing. The SMM noted that slogans calling to free Savchenko had been painted on the Embassy gate, and posters with the words “Free Savchenko” had been hung on the perimeter fence. At 15:10hrs, two protestors dressed in military-type clothing scaled the main gate of the Embassy and began smashing small glass windows surrounding a door of the Embassy. At 15:20hrs, many of the protesters began throwing eggs and rocks at the Embassy; this lasted for approximately five minutes. The situation was calm when the SMM left the area at 15:50hrs. Approximately 20 police and two National Guard officers were present at the scene and did not interfere with the protestors.

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

*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. “LPR” members continue to prevent the SMM from monitoring many areas alongside the border in parts of Luhansk region not controlled by the Government, and consistently require that the SMM submit patrol plans in advance.

Denial of access:

Five armed men stopped the SMM near the eastern outskirts of “DPR”-controlled Leninske (24km north-east of Mariupol) and denied it access to a farm, citing demining activities in the area. The SMM did not note any sign of demining activities being carried out. An armed man prevented the SMM from verifying the serial numbers of weapons at a “DPR” heavy weapons holding area. Three armed men at an “LPR” checkpoint near Sokilnyky (38km north-west of Luhansk) stopped the SMM on its way into the town and told the patrol that only the checkpoint commander, who was absent, could allow the SMM to proceed. After waiting 35 minutes, the SMM turned back.

Delay:

Two armed men stopped the SMM near “DPR”-controlled Yasynuvata and did not allow the patrol to proceed further to the east, citing fighting in the area. The SMM contacted the JCCC and after 35 minutes, the SMM was allowed to pass. While returning to Donetsk through “DPR”-controlled Styla, a man who identified himself as a local commander stopped the SMM and advised the patrol to stay on the main road and not to go north or south. The SMM was delayed by five minutes.

Conditional access:

At a checkpoint in government-controlled Raihorodka (34km north-west of Luhansk), the SMM was stopped by a member of the Ukrainian Armed Forces. The SMM was told to open the trunk of the vehicle, and only after complying was allowed to continue towards government-controlled Novoaidar (49km north-west of Luhansk). [1] For a complete breakdown of the ceasefire violations, please see the annexed table.

[2] All times in this report refer to Eastern European Time.

For PDF attachments or links to sources of further information, please visit: http://www.osce.org/ukraine-smm/226211

Contacts:

Iuliia Poberezhna
26 Turhenievska Street
01054 Kyiv
Ukraine
mobile: +380 67 467 75 65
iuliia.poberezhna@osce.org

Iryna Gudyma
26 Turhenievska Street
01054 Kyiv
Ukraine
mobile: +38 067 4021716
Iryna.Gudyma@osce.org