Latest from OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (SMM), based on information received as of 19:30 (Kyiv time), 15 April 2015

Situation Report
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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 by security considerations*. Fighting continued unabated in the area of Donetsk airport; the SMM observed many ceasefire violations mainly around Avdiivka, Pisky, Spartak and Zhabunki. For the second consecutive day, fighting subsided in the Shyrokyne area but the humanitarian situation continues to be dire. The SMM monitored heavy weapons holding areas belonging to the Ukrainian Armed Forces and observed that not all heavy weapons previously recorded remain in situ.

(* Please see the section at the end of this report entitled “Restrictions on SMM access and freedom of movement” for further information.)

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), the SMM continued to observe intense and protracted fighting in the area surrounding Donetsk airport. Due to their close proximity to the airport and as during the previous days, the government-controlled towns of Avdiivka (17km north-north-west of Donetsk), Opytne (13km north-north-west of Donetsk), Pisky (7km north-west of Donetsk) and the “DPR”-controlled villages of Spartak (14km north-west of Donetsk) and Zhabunki (14km north-west of Donetsk), constituted the main fighting zone. Throughout the day, from the observation post in the railway station, the SMM heard a total number of 532 explosions, both incoming and outgoing. In the SMM’s assessment different types of weapons were used such as anti-aircraft machine gun, heavy machine-gun, small-arms, mortar, artillery and tanks. The SMM observed a lull in the fighting around 11:00hrs as the JCCC brokered a ceasefire, however fighting reignited approximately two hours later and continued, albeit less intensively, throughout the day. The ongoing combat situation around the airport was also witnessed by the SMM at an observation post in Avdiivka and was further confirmed by both Chiefs of Staff of Russian Federation Armed Forces and Ukrainian Armed Forces at JCCC headquarters.

During the second day of the SMM’s Deputy Chief Monitor’s visit to Shyrokyne (20km east of Mariupol), the SMM observed a decrease in the intensity of the fighting in the area. Also, for the second consecutive day, the SMM accessed the village and moved freely on foot; the SMM walked through Shyrokyne and for the first time reached its southern edge, where the church is located. The SMM observed that the building had shattered windows and saw small marks, presumably of shrapnel, on the walls. While in the centre of Shyrokyne, the SMM met with the Ukrainian Major-General, Head of the Ukrainian side to the JCCC and the Russian Colonel-General, Representative of the Russian Federation Armed Forces to the JCCC and discussed a disengagement plan for Shyrokyne.

Before leaving Shyrokyne, the SMM intended to install a water cistern in the eastern edge of the village, where several residents are still living. Only five SMM team members, including the paramedic were allowed to proceed, by “DPR” members based within the village*. The SMM carried the cistern as well as some small food staples and medicines that a resident had asked for the day before. While the five SMM team members were delivering the items, an explosive device, possibly a grenade, detonated approximately 50 metres from the SMM, behind a house. No casualties were reported.

In the Luhansk region, while travelling from “Lugansk People’s Republic“(”LPR”)-controlled Novosvitlivka (19km east of Luhansk) towards the east, the SMM observed the road to be contaminated with numerous unexploded ordnance (UXO). In “LPR”-controlled Ohulchansk (26km east of Luhansk), several local residents confirmed the existence of UXOs in the area but said that “LPR” has already conducted de-mining in the area of the village and hence it is possible to cultivate the fields.

In “LPR”-controlled Rovenky (55km south of Luhansk) the SMM met with the “head of the local administration” who stated that the humanitarian situation was deteriorating. He said there were shortages of food and medicines. There are 162 internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the area, mainly from “DPR”-controlled Debaltseve who receive support from the Russian Federation and the Akhmetov Foundation. Likewise, in government-controlled Novoaidar (49km north-west of Luhansk), the SMM was told by a representative of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) that the humanitarian situation in the area is worrying. He stated that aid is provided by the ICRC and the Akhmetov Foundation. He added that local residents started to sell personal items, such as their own clothing, etc. to buy food; even though, when comparing to the previous months, there was now significantly less food available at the local market.

In the city of Luhansk (“LPR”-controlled), the SMM monitored a press conference held by the “LPR” “president”, Mr. Plotnitskiy. He stated that due to the conflict, in the Luhansk region, 8,000 private houses, 65 hospitals, 37 public buildings and 40 water supply structures, were destroyed. He added that so far, the “LPR” had repaired 22 hospitals, 74 facilities and three orphanages. According to him the “LPR” was also negotiating with the Government to resume electricity supplies from government-controlled Shchastia (20km north of Luhansk), but without success until now. He further recognized that price inflation was a serious problem.

The SMM revisited four Ukrainian Armed Forces heavy weapons holding areas and was able to monitor that three 152mm towed artillery guns remained missing from one of the sites. As during SMM visits on previous days (see SMM Daily Report 13 April), the unit commander stated that the guns had been removed for training purposes. The SMM confirmed that all the other weapons were in situ and that their locations comply with respective withdrawal lines.

Despite the claims that withdrawal of heavy weapons was completed, the SMM observed the following weapons’ movements in areas non-compliant with the withdrawal lines: (i) in “DPR”-controlled areas, a military convoy of six 100mm anti-tank guns and respective ammunition; (ii) in government-controlled areas, two tanks (T-64); (iii) in “LPR”-controlled areas, 12 tanks and 15 armoured personnel carriers. In addition, the SMM’s unarmed/unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) provided imagery of heavy weaponry in the Shyrokyne area, such as two main battle tanks (MBT) in government-controlled Sopyne (15km west of Shyrokyne) and one in government-controlled Berdianske (2km west of Shyrokyne). Additionally, two infantry fighting vehicles, two armoured personnel carriers (BTR) and three main battle tanks (MBT) were seen within Shyrokyne.

In Kyiv, a representative of the “Union of Kyiv City Anti-Terrorism Operation (ATO) Veterans”, a civil society organization (CSO) that provides support to demobilized soldiers, told the SMM that females constitute approximately five per cent of the military personnel. All women join the Ukrainian Armed Forces on a voluntary basis as the law states only men can be drafted. In spite of the voluntary nature of their assignments, women are entitled to the same benefits as men. The representative of the CSO also informed that the Kyiv City Council had recently allocated 11 hectares of land to relatives of Kyiv citizens who have died while fighting with the Ukrainian Armed Forces.

In Kharkiv the SMM observed that the Orders of Lenin, Red Banner of Labour and October Revolution, had been removed from the façade of the building of the Turbatom plant. The SMM spoke to employees of the factory who claimed that this occurred when the building was renovated on 14 April.

The SMM met with a law enforcement agent in Kharkiv who confirmed reports of the detention of 11 individuals during the previous weekend. According to him, these individuals, all Ukrainian citizens and male, were detained on grounds of terrorism. He also stated that they are suspected of having masterminded and conducted subversive acts in the region during the past months, including the explosion that had occurred on the rail tracks on 30 March (see SMM Daily Report 31 March). Different types of weapons and ammunition namely rockets, grenade launchers, pistols, etc. were seized from the individuals.

The SMM continued to monitor the situation in Dnepropetrovsk, Kherson, 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.

While trying to access the eastern area of Shyrokyne,”DPR” members based within the village, were reluctant in allowing the SMM to proceed. After some discussion only five SMM team members were permitted to reach that area of Shyrokyne.

Michael Bociurkiw
OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine
26 Turgenevska Street
01054 Kyiv
Office: +380 44 382 0832
Mobile: +38 067 4083107

Iryna Gudyma
Senior Press Assistant
OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine
26 Turgenevska Street
01054 Kyiv
Mobile: +38 067 4021716