Ukraine

Latest from OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) to Ukraine, based on information received as of 19:30hrs, 25 March 2016

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This report is for media and the general public.

The SMM observed a significant decrease in ceasefire violations in Donetsk region compared with the previous day, and several ceasefire violations in Luhansk region. The Mission continued to monitor the withdrawal of weapons. It observed the presence of mines, marking off of mined areas and demining in the security zone. It reached border crossing points not controlled by the Government. The SMM faced a high number of restrictions of its freedom of movement, all in areas not controlled by the Government, including border areas.*

The SMM observed a significant decrease in ceasefire violations in Donetsk region compared with the previous day. [1] Positioned in “DPR”-controlled Donetsk city centre, the SMM registered three undetermined explosions 7-10km north-east of its position. The SMM did not observe ceasefire violations in the Yasynuvata-Avdiivka area, although armed men again restricted SMM access to “DPR”-controlled Yasynuvata (16km north-east of Donetsk), despite the intervention of the Joint Centre for Control and Co-ordination (JCCC) (see SMM Daily Report from 24 March 2016).

During the evening hours of 16:25-23:00hrs on 24 March, whilst positioned in government-controlled Svitlodarsk (57km north-east of Donetsk), the SMM heard at least nine undetermined explosions, 103 rounds fired from infantry fighting vehicles (IFV) (BMP-1 and BMP-2), 93 automatic-grenade-launcher impacts, 57 mortar impacts of undetermined calibre, and 81 bursts of heavy-machine-gun fire 2-5km south, south-west and south-south-east of its position.

Whilst in “DPR”-controlled Horlivka (39km north-east of Donetsk) during the evening of 24 March, the SMM heard at least 12 explosions, assessed as 120mm mortar fire, 5-6km north of its position. From the same location on 25 March, the SMM heard what it assessed as at least three explosions caused by 82mm mortar fire 5-6km west of its position and 23 outgoing 152mm artillery rounds 1km south-west of its location.

In Luhansk region the SMM registered several ceasefire violations. Whilst positioned on the south-eastern side of government-controlled Popasna (69km west of Luhansk), the SMM heard what it assessed as 20-25 explosions caused by heavy artillery 10-15km south of the SMM position. Positioned in government-controlled Orikhove (58km west of Luhansk), the SMM heard 10-20 undetermined explosions more than 10km south-west of its position. The SMM heard approximately ten shots of small-arms fire and 86 undetermined explosions whilst positioned in government-controlled Mykolaivka (76km north-west of Luhansk) and government-controlled Novoaidar (49km north-west of Luhansk), respectively, both of which the SMM assessed as live-fire training exercises in areas outside the security zone.

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 39 tanks (T-64, 125mm), four mortars (2B9M, 82mm) and an additional mortar (82mm) were missing. The SMM also observed additional weapons.

Beyond withdrawal lines but outside storage sites, the SMM observed separately two tanks (T-84, 125mm and T-64, 125mm) being transported in the area of Novoaidar.

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 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 respective withdrawal lines, the SMM revisited such sites and observed six self-propelled howitzers (2S1 Gvozdika, 122mm). The SMM also observed that an additional five self-propelled howitzers (2S1 Gvozdika, 122mm) were present, as they had been since initially observed on 8 March. The SMM noted that five Addendum-regulated mortars (three PM-38, 120mm and two 2B9 Vasilek, 82mm) were missing, as they have been observed since 4 March.

In violation of respective withdrawal lines, the SMM observed eighteen towed howitzers (2A65 Msta-B, 152mm) near government-controlled Dalnie (42km west of Donetsk). Thirteen were coupled with military trucks that were loaded with ammunition.

The SMM observed the presence of other hardware within the security zone in Luhansk and Donetsk regions. Near “DPR”-controlled Debaltseve (58km north-east of Donetsk), the SMM observed one armoured personnel carrier (APC) (MT-LB) carrying five armed men.

In government-controlled areas the SMM observed: five APCs (MT-LB) near Solodke (33km south-west of Donetsk); six military trucks mounted with anti-aircraft guns (ZU-23, 23mm) near Marinka (23km south-west of Donetsk); three IFVs (BMP-1) and one APC (BTR-80) south of Novotroitske (36km south-west of Donetsk); as well as one IFV (BMP-1), one IFV (BMP) command vehicle and three military trucks in the vicinity of Buhas (46km south-west of Donetsk).

The SMM observed the presence of mined areas within the security zone. At a checkpoint near the western entrance of Kominternove (23km north-east of Mariupol), the SMM observed anti-tank mines placed closely together making it difficult to safely pass the checkpoint.

The SMM observed marking off of mined areas and demining activities within the security zone. In the government-controlled part of Zolote (60km west of Luhansk), the SMM observed Ukrainian Armed Forces personnel marking mined areas approximately 150-200 meters wide along the main road leading to the checkpoint. They said that their team did not have enough mine marking labels, but expect to receive additional ones. The SMM also observed five Ukrainian Armed Forces Emergency Services personnel demining along the P-22 highway approximately 5km north of government-controlled Makarove (19km north-east of Luhansk). The demining team told the SMM they had removed mines from the surrounding area, as well as tripwires and unexploded ordnance (UXO).

The SMM observed checkpoints close to the contact line and noted a calm situation. At one government checkpoint near Marinka, the SMM observed 250 civilian vehicles, ten buses and 100 pedestrians (60 per cent women, 40 per cent men) waiting to travel west, while there were no cars waiting to travel east. At a second government checkpoint, the SMM observed approximately 120 vehicles, ten mini-buses and 40 civilians (60 per cent women, 40 per cent men) waiting to travel toward government-controlled areas, and approximately 240 vehicles in the other direction. Near “DPR”-controlled Olenivka (23km south-west of Donetsk), the SMM observed 308 vehicles and two buses waiting to travel toward government-controlled areas, and 32 vehicles in the other direction. At the “LPR” checkpoint near the Stanytsia Luhanska bridge (16km north-east of Luhansk), the SMM observed between 100-200 people waiting to travel toward government-controlled areas, while 500-600 people were waiting to travel in the opposite direction. At the Ukrainian Armed Forces checkpoint on the northern side of the Stanytsia Luhanska bridge, the SMM observed approximately 200 civilians waiting to travel toward government-controlled areas and 400 civilians waiting to travel in the other direction. Despite the high number of pedestrians crossing, the SMM observed them passing through the checkpoints at a steady rate. Near the government-controlled part of Zolote, the SMM observed on-going construction work for the opening of a checkpoint for civilians, including paving a pedestrian walk-way and using heavy machinery to widen the road to accommodate vehicular traffic at the crossing point.

The SMM monitored border areas not controlled by the Government. At the Uspenka (72km south-east of Donetsk) border crossing point the SMM observed a line of 48 commercial trucks (two with Russian Federation license plates, five with Belarusian license plates, the rest with Ukrainian license plates) and 64 civilian cars (ten with Russian Federation license plates and the rest with Ukrainian license plates) waiting to cross to the Russian Federation. The SMM spoke with four middle-aged men who said they had been waiting with their vehicles for several hours already to pass the crossing point. At the Dovzhanskyi (84km south-east of Luhansk) border crossing point, the SMM observed 51 trucks (many with “LPR” and “DPR” license plates and two with Ukrainian license plates) queuing to cross into the Russian Federation, out of which 25 were filled with coal. The SMM spoke with several truck drivers who stated that they had been waiting to cross the border for approximately 24 hours and that they expected to queue for up to 48 hours, though this was a longer waiting time than normal. At Izvaryne (53km south-east of Luhansk) border crossing point, the SMM observed 80 civilian vehicles (the majority with Ukrainian license plates, 14 with Russian Federation license plates, and one with Georgian license plates), six cargo trucks (five with Ukrainian license plates and one with Belarusian license plates), and five large passenger buses (all with Ukrainian license plates) all waiting to cross from Ukraine into the Russian Federation.

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

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

The SMM’s monitoring is restrained by security hazards and threats, including risks posed by mines and unexploded ordnance, and by restrictions of its freedom of movement and other impediments – which vary from day to day. The SMM's mandate provides for safe and secure access throughout Ukraine. All signatories of the Package of Measures have agreed on the need for this safe and secure access, that restriction of the SMM’s freedom of movement constitutes a violation, and on the need for rapid response to these violations.

Denial of access:

  • At a “DPR”-checkpoint east of Mykolaivka (39km north-east of Mariupol) armed men refused to allow the SMM to pass, citing sniper activity in the area.
  • At a checkpoint near “LPR”-controlled Parkhomenko (29km east of Luhansk), an armed man demanded to see the SMM patrol plan, which the SMM refused to show. He refused to allow the SMM to pass and when the SMM contacted the JCCC, it confirmed that the SMM would not be allowed to pass. The armed man told the SMM to return to base and not patrol in the border area.
  • Approximately 2km north of “LPR”-controlled Ivanivka (33km east of Luhansk) three armed men in an unmarked civilian car, including the armed man from the checkpoint near Parkhomenko, stopped the SMM. They angrily told the SMM to leave the area, and escorted the SMM vehicle away from the border area for approximately 1km.
  • The SMM was stopped approximately 5km north of “LPR”-controlled Chervonyi Zhovten (80km south of Luhansk) by three armed men, who requested to see the SMM patrol plan and SMM IDs. The SMM refused to share patrol plans, but showed IDs. The armed men refused to allow the SMM to continue. The SMM contacted the JCCC, but was unable to obtain access.
  • Whilst at the “LPR”-controlled Izvaryne border crossing point, armed men demanded to see the patrol plan. After the SMM refused, they told the SMM to leave the border area immediately.
  • While in “LPR”-controlled Vlasivka (53km south-east of Luhansk), the SMM was stopped by two armed men driving a civilian vehicle with Russian Federation license plates also from the Izvaryne border crossing point, who stated that access to the border area was not permitted and they could not allow the SMM to proceed without showing the patrol plan.

Conditional access:

  • Outside of “DPR”-controlled Yasynuvata the SMM was stopped at a temporary checkpoint by armed men, who refused to allow the SMM to proceed, citing security concerns. The SMM gained access after the JCCC Russian Federation Armed Forces representative came to the scene, but only under escort by armed men; the SMM was not allowed to proceed to its original patrol destination. Five armed men and the JCCC Russian Federation Armed Forces representative remained with the SMM for the remainder of its patrol.

  • At a “DPR” checkpoint near Donetsk, armed men demanded that SMM monitors show national passports before being allowed to pass the checkpoint. The SMM presented national passports and left the checkpoint.

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

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