The SMM monitored the implementation of the “Package of measures for the Implementation of the Minsk agreements”. Its monitoring was restricted by third parties and security considerations, with SMM patrols restricted from moving freely in government-controlled areas around Mariupol and in areas under “Lugansk People’s Republic” (“LPR”) control.* Fighting was of reduced intensity around Donetsk airport and nearby villages, and Shyrokyne was generally calm during the day. Heavy weapons continued to be moved on both sides of the contact line. Some civilians in Donetsk region tell the SMM of their urgent need for basic supplies and services.
Fighting was of reduced intensity in comparison with previous days, although the SMM heard continued ceasefire violations at and around Donetsk airport (11km north-west of Donetsk) including surrounding villages with artillery, anti-aircraft, small arms and light weapons (SALW) and heavy-machine-guns being used. In Shryrokyne (23km east of Mariupol) and its surroundings, mortar and SALW were heard by SMM monitoring teams although it was generally calm on the 21 April.
At the headquarters of the Joint Centre for Control and Co-ordination (JCCC) in government-controlled Soledar (77km north-north-east of Donetsk) both the Ukrainian Armed Forces Major-General and the Russian Federation Armed Forces Colonel-General updated the SMM on the SMM initiated plan to establish a demilitarized zone (DMZ) in and around Shyrokyne. They told the SMM there is consensus on a number of points although some issues need to be finalised.
The Russian Federation Armed Forces Colonel-General at the JCCC presented letters from members of both the “Donetsk People’s Republic” (“DPR”) and “Lugansk People’s Republic” (“LPR”) that were sent to SMM, stating their intention to parade heavy weapons as part of Victory Day commemorations on 9 May. The SMM stressed that such action would be in violation of Minsk agreements, as outlined by the SMM Chief Monitor in his letter of 10 April to the signatories of the Minsk Package (see SMM Daily Report, http://www.osce.org/ukraine-smm/152151).
The SMM observed a queue of 40 civilian vehicles waiting to enter the Russian Federation at the “DPR’-controlled international border crossing between Ukraine and the Russian Federation point near Novoazovsk (52km east of Mariupol). A “DPR” “border guard” told the SMM that due to unspecified “DPR” military training at the border crossing point in Ulyanivske (80km north-east of Mariupol) north of Novoazovsk, civilian vehicles were redirected to the border crossing point in Novoazovsk.
Some civilians in Donetsk region continue to survive on basic supplies and services. Inhabitants (seven women, one man) in the government-controlled villages of Pyshchevyk (25km north-east of Mariupol) and Pavlopil (27km north-east of Mariupol) told the SMM of their urgent need for food, drinking water and public transport. They said that they cannot leave the village as they have not received the necessary permits to travel despite submitting applications.
The director of the Luhansk regional social services for families, children and youth in government-controlled Sievierodonetsk (74km north-west of Luhansk) told the SMM of the challenge faced by their services in assisting Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), many of whom have been traumatized by the conflict and need psychosocial support. According to her, the return of demobilized soldiers may represent an additional challenge as many of them will have experienced trauma (including post-traumatic stress disorder and may require rehabilitation from injuries sustained in combat). Consequently, social services centre staff were being trained on war-related trauma issues to enable them to support those in need.
The SMM met with the head of a local Cossack group in “LPR”-controlled Stakhanov (50km west of Luhansk) who gave the SMM verbal assurances regarding its freedom of movement. Despite this, the SMM was stopped near the “LPR”-controlled village of Molodizhne (62km west of Luhansk) on three occasions*. The SMM returned to the Cossack interlocutor who provided the SMM with written assurance of freedom of movement. Nevertheless the SMM was later prevented by “LPR” members from completing a planned return through “LPR”-controlled Pervomaisk (57km west of Luhansk).*
The SMM re-visited the location where heavy weapons are being prepared for the Victory Day parade on 9 May in “LPR”-controlled areas. The SMM observed the same heavy weapons present as reported in previous days (see SMM Daily Reports 19 and 20 April, 2015 http://www.osce.org/ukraine-smm/152151and http://www.osce.org/ukraine-smm/152466).
Despite claims that the withdrawal of heavy weapons was complete, the SMM observed the following heavy weapons inside the exclusion zone. In areas under the control of the “DPR”, the SMM saw one stationary infantry fighting vehicle (BMP-2) with a mounted anti-tank guided rocket system (AT-4 Spigot, 120mm); four tanks (T-72); five BMP-2 and one tracked vehicle (MTLB) moving east; four tanks (T-72), one URAL vehicle carrying “DPR” members. In government-controlled areas the SMM saw three stationary tanks (T-64) that they had seen in previous days; and one tank (T-64) at another location. The SMM Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) observed one main battle tank (MBT) and a house on fire in Shyrokyne (23km east of Mariupol).
The Ministry of the Interior in Kharkiv confirmed to the SMM that an explosion in the early hours of 21 April damaged a vehicle. On 20 April, another vehicle was damaged in a fire. According to the police, there were no casualties in either incident. In both cases, a criminal investigation was opened by police on charges of alleged destruction or damage to property.
Representatives of the city council of Melitopol (181km south of Dnepropetrovsk), told the SMM the number of IDPs has decreased as a result of fewer arrivals and increased numbers of returnees. A Red Cross representative later told the SMM that approximately 30% of IDPs in Melitopol had returned home. Participants (state agencies, non-governmental organizations, and international organizations) at a meeting discussing IDP issues in Dnepropetrovsk region - attended by the SMM - said relations between IDPs and the host community were tense, and that this was a potential concern.
The head of the Kherson district social policy department told the SMM that the re-registration of IDPs had begun following a decision of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine to extend financial support to IDPs for six months. According to him, the process is straightforward with IDPs required to present their registration cards at the social policy department’s offices to continue receiving assistance. According to the head, there were 11,170 IDPs in Kherson region; 23% are children, 39% are pensioners and 5% persons with disabilities.
The SMM observed a gathering of up to 30 people (mostly middle-aged men and women, more or less equal numbers) in front of the Parliament, demanding a stop to illegal construction in historical areas of Kyiv. 25-30 police were present. The SMM also saw another crowd of up to 50 mainly elderly people (about equal numbers of women and men) at Kyiv City Hall with banners against the prevention of construction in Kyiv and expressing opposition to a member of Kyiv city council who used to be affiliated with a non-governmental organization dealing with illegal construction. 15-20 police were present. Both protests ended peacefully.
The SMM continued to monitor the situation in 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.
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 the “DPR” and “LPR” which are not always provided.
- Near the “LPR”-controlled village of Molodizhne (62km west of Luhansk) the SMM was stopped three times by “LPR” members. Each time, the “LPR” gave different reasons for not allowing the SMM into the village.
- “LPR” members at a checkpoint near “LPR”-controlled Pervomaisk (57km west of Luhansk) prevented the SMM from making a return journey through Pervomaisk and would only allow the SMM to proceed in one direction, and not back through the town after returning from government-controlled territory In government-controlled Lebedinske (16km east of Mariupol) the SMM was stopped for 90 minutes by members of the Dnipro 1 volunteer battalion positioned in a bunker. The SMM was asked to provide the nationalities of the SMM monitors and prevented from proceeding further. The SMM was directed to proceed to Kominternove on an alternate route instead.
- The SMM was denied freedom to proceed towards Kominternove (23km north of Mariupol). The Ukrainian Armed Forces checkpoint personnel consulted with superiors and after 90 minutes, the SMM was denied passage.
- At Ukrainian Armed Forces checkpoint 12 near Hnutove (19km north-west of Mariupol), the SMM was again asked to provide nationalities and was allowed to proceed.
- In government-controlled Solodke (27km south-west of Donetsk) the SMM was stopped at a checkpoint, asked to provide ID and nationality but allowed to proceed after the SMM patrol leader provided ID and nationality.
- The SMM was stopped for 5-10 minutes at a Ukrainian Armed Forces checkpoint near government-controlled Makarove (19km north-east of Luhansk) until soldiers received permission from their supervisors to let the SMM proceed. The SMM was asked for IDs and nationalities. Checkpoint personnel recorded vehicle registration plates and on the return journey, they inspected the trunks of SMM vehicles.
- At a Ukrainian Armed Forces checkpoint in government-controlled Stanytsia Luhanska (16km north-east of Luhansk) the SMM was stopped for approximately 5 minutes by checkpoint personnel who inspected the interior of the OSCE vehicles before allowing the patrol to pass.
- The SMM was prevented from travelling through a checkpoint by “DPR” members in Oktyabr (27km north-east of Mariupol).
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