Latest from OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (SMM), based on information received as of 19:30 (Kyiv time), 13 April 2015

Situation Report
Originally published

The SMM monitored the implementation of the “Package of measures for the Implementation of the Minsk agreements”. The SMM, based on its monitoring – which was restricted by third parties and by security considerations – observed a massive increase in the number of ceasefire violations, especially around Donetsk airport and Shyrokyne. Fighting continued in other areas but sporadically.*

On 11 April, whilst at the Joint Centre for Control and Co-ordination (JCCC) observation post in Donetsk railway station (“Donetsk People’s Republic (“DPR”)-controlled, 8km north-west of Donetsk city-centre), between 10:12 and 12:00hrs, the SMM heard 28 undetermined explosions, 2 to 10km west-north-west and north of its position. In addition, at 11:15hrs, the SMM observed one impact of undetermined ordnance on the airport runway and at 11:26hrs, the SMM saw smoke coming from the area of the destroyed control tower of the airport; at 11:28hrs, the SMM also saw smoke in the area of “DPR”-controlled Spartak (12km north-west of Donetsk city-centre).

Later that day, between 12:15 and 14:20hrs, while in the vicinity of the destroyed new terminal building of Donetsk airport (“DPR”-controlled, 11km north-west of Donetsk city centre), the SMM heard a total of 15 undefined explosions north-north-west, south and west of its position; the SMM also observed sporadic small-arms and heavy machine-gun bursts north, north-east, west and north-west of its position. While at the airport, a “DPR” member informed the SMM about a newly discovered body on the second floor of the new terminal. The SMM was allowed to see the body. No badges, insignia or documents were found to confirm the identity of the deceased. When the SMM was leaving the airport, it observed ten men accompanied by armed “DPR” members, sitting in front of a nearby church.

On 12 April, while at Voroshylivskyi district in Donetsk city-centre, between 03:17 and 03:27hrs, the SMM heard constant small-arms fire north of its location. Later, between 08:45 and 09:30hrs, the SMM heard 60 undetermined incoming and outgoing explosions approximately 10km north-west of its location.

During the morning, whilst at the JCCC observation point at Donetsk railway station (“DPR”-controlled, 8km north-west of Donetsk city centre), the SMM assessed that a full scale battle was ongoing in the area of government-controlled Pisky (15km north-west of Donetsk city-centre) and “DPR”-controlled Zhabunki (14km north-west of Donetsk city centre), i.e. in the vicinity of Donetsk airport. The SMM heard sounds consistent with heavy artillery and mortar fire. The JCCC confirmed that intensive fighting was taking place. The JCCC officers tried to broker a ceasefire twice but the SMM witnessed both attempts failing. According to JCCC, the actual contact line moved to 1km east of Pisky towards the “DPR”-controlled area of Zhabunki and “Volvo centre”. Later, at 12:17hrs, the SMM assessed that a battle had also started in the area of “DPR”-controlled Spartak (10km north-west of Donetsk city centre) and government-controlled Butorskaya mine (12km north-west of Donetsk city centre). The SMM heard sounds consistent with an exchange of fire but could not ascertain further details.

In total, between 09:35 and 13:10hrs, the SMM heard 1166 explosions caused by different weapons from the south-west, west, west-north-west, north-west, north and north-north-east, in a distance of approximately 2 to 5km of the SMM’s position. In the SMM’s assessment, approximately 30 per cent of the total number of explosions was caused by heavy artillery, tank and 120mm mortar fire and the remaining by anti-aircraft machine gun, heavy-machine gun and small arms. During the day, the SMM observed several ambulances, travelling with emergency lights and sirens on, moving from the airport to the city centre. (See SMM Spot Report “Renewed Intensive Fighting around Donetsk City and Shyrokyne, 12 April).

On 13 April, between 04:55 and 10:30hrs, while in Donetsk city centre, the SMM heard a total of 263 explosions at a distance spanning from 5-12km, consistent with the areas of Spartak and Donetsk airport. In the SMM’s assessment, the explosions resulted from automatic grenade launchers, mortars, and artillery and tank fire. The SMM also observed smoke around Spartak.

On that same day, the SMM continued to observe ongoing intense fighting in the areas surrounding Donetsk airport with a total number of 296 explosions, both incoming and outgoing; multiple ceasefire violations including anti-aircraft machine gun, heavy-machine-gun and small-arms fire. Between 10:20 and 14:30hrs, approximately half of the explosions were heard 2 to 5km west and north-west of government-controlled Pisky (15km west-north-west of Donetsk) and were also heard in “DPR”-controlled Zhabunki village (14km west-north-west of Donetsk) as well as in the area of “DPR”-controlled “Volvo centre” (11km west-north-west of Donetsk city-centre). The SMM also heard sporadic bursts of automatic grenade launcher, heavy-machine gun and small-arms fire coming from mentioned areas. The SMM observed three sources of black smoke coming from the shelled areas. Simultaneously, the sound of fighting was heard from the area of the destroyed control tower of Donetsk airport, “DPR” positions in Spartak village, Ukrainian Armed Forces positions in a former military base south-west and others south of Avdiivka (government-controlled, 13km northwest of Donetsk city centre), and Opytne village (government-controlled, 13km west-north-west of Donetsk city centre). The SMM heard or observed the impacts and airbursts of 23 incoming rounds and 13 outgoing rounds in the area of the control tower of Donetsk airport, as well as the impacts and airbursts of five incoming rounds and one outgoing round in the area of Spartak. The SMM heard sporadic bursts of automatic grenade launcher, anti-aircraft machine gun, heavy-machine gun and small-arms fire coming from the mentioned areas. The SMM observed black smoke rising from the areas of the former military base south-west of Avdiivka and Spartak. Between 12:17 and 14:30hrs the SMM heard 17 explosions from southerly and south-westerly directions at a distance of 5 to 10km of its position at Donetsk railway station. The SMM assesses that at least four were outgoing artillery rounds.

In the early afternoon, the SMM observed that a full-scale battle started about 3km west-south-west of SMM’s position. During approximately one hour, the SMM heard numerous shots, outgoing fire and impacts of all kind of weapons including tanks, artillery and heavy mortars. The SMM further observed multiple buildings on fire in the village of Pisky, heard small-arms fire north-west to north of its position, at an undetermined distance.

In the late afternoon while at the observation post at the railway station from 15:00 to 19:00hrs, the SMM observed 484 ceasefire violations. These violations consisted of the use of all type of weapons including tanks, heavy mortar and artillery. The SMM also observed a full scale tank battle at Donetsk airport. The SMM heard bursts of machine-gun fire, shots of tanks and grenade launcher explosions, consistently and intensively throughout the whole afternoon. When the SMM left at 19:00hrs combat activities continued.

On 12 April, between 12:03 and 13:29hrs, whilst at the JCCC observation post in government-controlled Avdiivka (14km north of Donetsk), the SMM heard approximately 50 explosions out of which 11 were incoming, from a distance of 8km south-east of its position. In the SMM’s assessment, the explosions resulted from the use of 152mm heavy artillery and 120mm mortars.

On 13 April, between 12:08 and 12:26hrs, while at the same observation post in Avdiivka, the SMM heard several explosions of 82mm and 120mm mortar, rocket-propelled grenade (RPG), light and heavy-machine-gun and small-arms fire. The fire was both incoming and outgoing from the areas of Spartak, Avdiivka and Donetsk airport. The SMM saw a number of RPG shots exploding in the air without being able to determine from where these originated. The SMM also heard several explosions resulting from an exchange of fire in the area of Opytne and Zhabunki, including 82mm and 120mm mortars, RPG, light and heavy-machine gun.

On 12 April, between 13:00 and 14:16hrs, whilst in the outskirts of “DPR”-controlled Telmanove (63km south-east of Donetsk), the SMM heard 13 undetermined explosions approximately 10 to 15km north-west of its position. At 10:44hrs while travelling north-north-east of government-controlled Avdiivka (14km north-north-west of Donetsk) the SMM heard two incoming blasts estimated to be caused by mortar, 5 to 6km north of its position. In the same area, at 12:57hrs, the SMM heard sounds consistent with an incoming heavy explosion, 8 to 9km north of its position.

On 11 April, the SMM continued to monitor the situation in and around Shyrokyne. While at an observation post located in the outskirts of government-controlled Berdianske (2km west of Shyrokyne, 20km east of Mariupol), between 09:10 and 12:10hrs, the SMM heard 40 detonations in the distance, north of its position. During that period, the SMM also heard sounds consistent with small-arms and heavy-machine-gun fire, north-west of its position.

Later that day, after 18:35hrs, the SMM witnessed an escalation of hostilities, with a tank round being fired and small-arms and machine-gun fire exchange between forces in government-controlled Berdianske and Shyrokyne. At 19:05hrs, the SMM saw flashes resulting from intermittent heavy mortar shelling. The JCCC confirmed the SMM’s observations and described the fighting during this period as intensive. (See SMM Spot Report “Renewed Intensive Fighting in the Shyrokyne area”, 11 April.)

When travelled through government-controlled Pavlopil (80km south of Donetsk) 11 April, the SMM heard eight undetermined impacts in the far distance, north of its position.

On 12 April, in the Shyrokyne area, while at an observation point in government-controlled territory 1.5km west of Shyrokyne, at 09:05hrs, the SMM heard small-arms fire from a distance of 3km north-east of its position. Later, between 15:05 and 18:25hrs, the SMM heard 21 detonations originating approximately 1 to 5km east and north; 16 explosions of mortar shells of undetermined calibre, approximately 5km north; 49 incoming mortars, 1 to 2km north-east; 30 outgoing mortars 400m south-east and intermittent small-arms fire in several occasions at 2km north-west. All directions are indicated in relation to the SMM’s position. (See SMM Spot Report “Renewed Intensive Fighting around Donetsk City and Shyrokyne, 12 April.)

On 13 April, while at an observation point 4.5km north-west of Shyrokyne, between 06:23 and 07:10hrs, the SMM heard 15 detonations out of which four were outgoing; the remaining undetermined. The SMM also heard five shots of automatic grenade launcher and a number of sounds consistent with tank and small-arms fire. The sounds originated in different areas south, south-east, south-west and north-east, between 200m and 4.5km of the SMM’s position. In government-controlled Sopyne (16km east of Mariupol, 4.5km west of Shyrokyne), the SMM spoke to two female local residents who expressed strong resentment for their current situation of not being able to access local government services in Sopyne and Mariupol since early September 2014 due to shelling and freedom of movement restrictions; they reported difficulties for civilians to pass through the Ukrainian Armed Forces checkpoint in Vynohradne (10km east of Mariupol). While at its observation point in government-controlled Berdianske, between 12:20 and 12:30hrs, the SMM heard nine undetermined outgoing detonations 7km north-east of its position.

Unlike on 11 and 12, on 13 April the SMM was allowed to pass through the “DPR”-controlled checkpoint, located in the northern edge of Shyrokyne and accessed the village. However, the SMM could only enter up to 200m into Shyrokyne* as the local “DPR” “commander” stated that there were military positions within the village. An additional restriction on the SMM freedom of movement in and around Shyrokyne was experienced on all three days during the reporting period in the form of jamming of SMM unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) operating in the area. Despite this, SMM UAVs observed many indications of renewed fighting in the Shyrokyne area, including, inter alia, burning houses in and several tanks around the village itself. The UAVs also spotted two tanks in Sopyne on 12 April; and, three tanks in Sakhanka (5km north-east of Shyrokyne), two tanks around Shyrokyne, and five tanks in “DPR”-controlled) Zaichenko (10km north-east of Shyrokyne) on 13 April (for UAV observations of other heavy weapons, please see section below).

The SMM also travelled to “DPR”-controlled Novoazovsk (40km east of Mariupol, 122km south-east of Donetsk) and reached the border crossing point to the Russian Federation without any restriction. In Novoazovsk, the SMM spoke to local residents, men and women, who expressed concern regarding price inflation for basic commodities and shortage of medicines in the area. They further said that “DPR” structures started paying pensions in March. Also in “DPR”-controlled Snizhne (79km east of Donetsk) and Shakhtarsk (57km east of Donetsk), local residents reported to have received their pensions in March; some in Ukrainian Hryvnia others in Russian Ruble.

On 11 April, the SMM travelled to the government-controlled village of Trokhizbenka (33km north-west of Luhansk) where local residents voiced their concern about not being able to reach “Lugansk People’s Republic” (“LPR”)-controlled territory. The SMM talked to members of the Aidar volunteer battalion manning the checkpoint in the outskirts of the village who confirmed that any person wishing to cross into “LPR”-controlled territory is required to have a “Trokhizbenka Registration Stamp” in their official document. As such, persons bearing the special permits to cross the line of contact but without this specific stamp are refused passage.

The issue of freedom of movement for civilians continues to be a major concern for local residents on either side of the line of contact. On 11 April, the SMM spoke to local residents, men and women, in government-controlled Novotoshkivske (53km north-west of Luhansk), who stated that they cannot reach “LPR”-controlled territory. Likewise, on 12 April, the SMM visited “LPR”-controlled Medvezhonka (46km south-east of Lugansk) and spoke to local residents, men and women, who expressed concern for not being able to access government-controlled territory. The only alternative is to travel through the Russian Federation which entails a lengthy and costly journey.

On 11 and 12 April, the SMM visited the government-controlled villages of Troitske (69km north-west of Luhansk) and Krymske. In the first location, local residents reported that there is no electricity in the village for three months and basic goods are lacking in the local shop. An issue of great concern is the contamination of agricultural land and adjacent roads with mines and unexploded ordnance (UXOs). In Krymske (51km north-west of Luhansk), the SMM observed that the asphalted road is contaminated with mines and UXOs. According to local residents, as a consequence commodities’ suppliers do not travel to the village and local food stocks are now exhausted. According to local residents, they survive with water from wells and subsistence agriculture. The SMM observed that the majority of the private houses are abandoned, and many are damaged.

On 11 and 12 April, the SMM also visited various other locations in the Luhansk region and observed the security situation to be calm, namely in government-controlled Hirske (62km north-west of Luhansk), Vrubivka (71km north-west of Luhansk), Troitske (69km north-west of Luhansk) and Popasna (69km west of Luhansk). This was confirmed by local residents. Also on 12 April, the SMM observed many shops and services, including restaurants and cafes, reopening in Luhansk city.

On 13 April, the SMM was informed by Ukrainian Armed Forces, Aidar volunteer battalion and local residents, that there had been fighting in government-controlled Trokhizbenka during the previous night. The SMM visited the village and found 17mm grenade cartridges at the bridge checkpoint. Also in Trokhizbenka, the SMM received reports by a Ukrainian Armed Forces soldier and local residents, that members of Aidar volunteer battalion had prevented a resident in “LPR”-controlled territory from carrying across the checkpoint potatoes purchased in Trokhizbenka, as the prices in government-controlled territory are much lower. The SMM visited the checkpoint and observed four large piles of bags of potatoes beside a sign instructing people not to carry luggage and saying that trading is forbidden.

On 13 April, the SMM monitored the situation at and around the bridge linking government-controlled Stanytsia Luhanska (16km north-east of Luhansk) with “LPR”-controlled territories. Residents in “LPR”-controlled territory told the SMM that during 11, 12 and 13 April, civilians faced severe difficulties to cross the bridge. Ukrainian Armed Forces personnel prevented some people to pass and took the decision in what was perceived as an arbitrary manner and on a case by case basis. On the government-controlled side, the SMM observed a queue of approximately 100 persons, mostly women, waiting to pass through the checkpoint. People voiced their grievances about the delays caused to them. The checkpoint commander noted that the lengthy procedures were exceptional due to security concerns.

The SMM revisited six heavy weapons holding areas of Ukrainian Armed Forces and was able to verify that the majority of weapons previously recorded were in situ, that their locations comply with the respective withdrawal lines and all serial numbers conform to previous visits. However, three previously recorded towed artillery guns were not present at one of the locations. The site commander stated that the guns had been removed for training purposes.

In a government-controlled area east of Donetsk, the SMM observed one tank (T-64), one armoured multi-purpose vehicle (MT-LB) and two armoured personnel carriers (BMP-2); one of these had a mounted 23mm anti-aircraft gun and the other a 135mm anti-tank rocket launcher. In another government-controlled area south of Donetsk, the SMM observed three 82mm mortars and three 120mm mortars, covered with camouflage net and three Ukrainian Armed Forces tanks (T-64), stationary in the centre of a village. In a government-controlled area north of Luhansk, the SMM observed three main battle tanks in the vicinity of a bridge. In a “DPR”-controlled area south-east of Donetsk the SMM saw three main battle tanks. Moreover, the SMM UAVs spotted a mortar team operating north of Berdianske, and a probable anti-aircraft gun mounted on a truck east of Oktyabr. In all the above mentioned cases, the location of the weapons does not comply with the withdrawal lines.

On 10 April, the SMM monitored a protest outside the economic court in Kherson, organized by employees of an energy company. There were approximately 50 participants, mostly male. Banners displayed in front of the court building demanded lustration in the courts and featured the names of a judge and of a Member of Parliament from the Kherson region who formerly owned the company. The peaceful protest lasted one hour and a half. Police were present observing the situation.

On 11 April in Kharkiv, the SMM visited the sites of three monuments built during the Soviet era which had been vandalized during the night. On Rudnev square, the monument to Rudnev was lying on the ground and the head was missing. At the site of the monument to Sergo Ordjonikitze, the SMM observed that the monument had been removed. The monument dedicated to Yakov Sverdlov on Poltava Street had also been removed but the pedestal remained. The SMM contacted the police who informed that they are investigating the cases on charges of hooliganism. Also in Kharkiv, on 12 April, the SMM monitored a memorial service dedicated to the 75th anniversary of the Katyn massacre. The ceremony was attended by approximately 60 persons, men and women of different ages. Representatives of both the Orthodox and Catholic churches were also present.

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

  • 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. Where such guarantees are limited to escorted movements, and escorts are not provided for all planned patrols or are delayed, this also represents a restriction of SMM freedom of movement.

  • On 10 of April, in the outskirts of “DPR”-controlled Debaltseve, a “DPR” member inquired about the SMM members’ nationalities, which were eventually disclosed. However, the SMM was not allowed to proceed.
  • On the same day, the SMM was allowed to travel from “LPR”-controlled Faschivka to “LPR”-controlled Chornukhyne (65km south-west of Luhansk), only after accepting to be escorted by members of a Cossack group.
  • On 11 April, whilst travelling from “DPR”-controlled Dmytrivka (82km east of Donetsk) to “DPR”-controlled Verkhnii (89km east of Donetsk), a “DPR” “commander halted the SMM and prohibited it to continue without providing any specific reasons.
  • On the same day, the SMM was also stopped three times at government-controlled checkpoints but was eventually allowed to proceed after some minutes: (1) in Raihorodka (34km north-west of Luhansk), the SMM was questioned about their members’ nationalities; (2) in Nyzhnie (56km north of Luhansk), the checkpoint personnel checked the SMM’s documents and searched the vehicles (3) once again in Nyzhnie, a Ukrainian Armed Forces soldier demanded the SMM’s language assistant to present his national passport; SMM’s language assistant complied.
  • The SMM was stopped a fourth time, at the checkpoint located in the outskirts of government-controlled Raihorodka and was requested to present national passports. The SMM was eventually allowed to proceed after showing only the OSCE red books but had to wait for one hour.
  • In the area of Shyrokyne, the SMM’s freedom of movement was impaired several times during 11 and 12 April; on both days, the SMM was denied passage at the “DPR”-controlled checkpoint located on the northern edge of Shyrokyne. The SMM attempted to pass three times, after co-ordinating with “DPR” structures in Novoazovsk and with the JCCC office also located in Bezimenne. However, all efforts were in vain.
  • On 11 April, the SMM was also prevented from passing through the “DPR”-controlled checkpoint in Oktyabr; the SMM noted that during the two latest days, while the Deputy Chief Monitor’s (DCM) was visiting the area, it experienced full freedom of movement. However, the “commander” retorted that this had been an exception due to the DCM’s visit.
  • On 13 April, the SMM was stopped at three “DPR”-controlled checkpoints: (1) in Artemovskaya Street in Donetsk city, the SMM was prevented from proceeding. The “DPR” personnel stated that the SMM could only pass with escort, which had not been requested by the SMM, and further informed that if the SMM insisted on passing, it could come under fire. The SMM decided not to continue; (2) at the checkpoint west of Donetsk railway station, only after contacting JCCC and waiting ten minutes, the SMM could proceed; (3) in Horlivka, “DPR” members asked for the “DPR”-issued ID cards of SMM’s patrol members; the SMM was given permission to continue after 20 minutes.
  • On 13 April, while attempting to reach “LPR”-controlled Izvaryne (53km east of Luhansk) the SMM was stopped by “LPR” members. Their “commander” said that the SMM is not allowed to visit the Izvaryne border crossing point. The SMM’s vehicles were searched and the SMM was escorted back to “LPR”-controlled Krasnodon (43m south-east of Luhansk).

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Michael Bociurkiw
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Iryna Gudyma
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