Latest from the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (SMM), based on information received as of 19:30, 26 February 2017

This report is for the media and the general public.

The SMM recorded fewer ceasefire violations in Donetsk region on both 25 and 26 February compared with 24 February. In Luhansk region the SMM recorded more ceasefire violations on 25 February compared with 24 February and fewer on 26 February compared with both 24 and 25 February. The SMM followed up on reports of civilian casualties and shelling in Avdiivka, Yasynuvata, Betmanove, Popasna and Zolote. Firing and explosions occurred near the SMM in Katerynivka. The SMM observed weapons in violation of the respective withdrawal lines. The SMM continued monitoring the disengagement areas in Stanytsia Luhanska, Petrivske and Zolote, but its access remained restricted.* Its freedom of movement was restricted further on both sides of the contact line. The Mission continued to note the presence of mines. It visited three border areas not under government control. It continued to monitor the blockade of railway tracks near Kryvyi Torets and Hirske. The SMM monitored public gatherings in Kherson and Kyiv.

The SMM recorded fewer ceasefire violations [1] including over 700 explosions on 25 February and over 200 explosions on 26 February compared with more than 1,200 explosions on 24 February in Donetsk region.

Within three hours before midnight on 24 February, while in “DPR”-controlled Donetsk city centre the SMM heard 169 undetermined explosions of rounds from unknown weapon systems 3-10km north-west and north-north-west. On that same evening, within two hours, the SMM camera in Oktiabr mine recorded 42 undetermined explosions and six illumination flares 6-10km north-east. The following day positioned at the “DPR”-controlled Donetsk railway station (6km north-west of Donetsk city centre) for more than three hours, the SMM heard six undetermined explosions: four explosions 3-6km west and north-west and two explosions 4-10km north-east and north-north-east. In the evening, while in Donetsk city centre the SMM heard 37 undetermined explosions 5-7km north-north-west. On 26 February, positioned at the Donetsk railway station in under two hours, the SMM hear 14 undetermined explosions 3-8km east and north-north-east.

Before midnight of 24 February, the SMM camera in Avdiivka (17km north of Donetsk) recorded a total of 36 undetermined explosions, eight projectiles in flight from north-east to south-west, two projectiles in flight from south-west to north-east, and two illumination flares 4-6km east-south-east of its location. The following evening, the camera recorded a total of six undetermined explosions, and – in sequence: 40 projectiles in flight from west to east followed by three projectiles in flight from east to west. On 25 February, positioned in Avdiivka, the SMM heard 22 undetermined explosions 1-3km south and south-west. The following day, from the same position, the SMM heard five undetermined explosions 3-5km north-east. On 25 February, positioned east and south-east of “DPR”-controlled Yasynuvata* (16km north-east of Donetsk) for about six hours, the SMM heard a total of 41 undetermined explosions, 3-7km south-west, west-south-west and west. On 26 February, positioned in Yasynuvata, the SMM heard 78 undetermined explosions and one explosion assessed as an outgoing round of an unknown weapon (see SMM follow-up of civilian casualties), 1-7km north, west-north-west, west-south-west and west.

On the evening of 24 February while in “DPR”-controlled Horlivka (39km north-east of Donetsk), within two hours, the SMM heard 165 explosions (27 assessed as caused by outgoing multiple-launch rocket system (MLRS; BM-21 Grad, 122mm) rounds, 40 assessed as caused by outgoing artillery rounds 3-4km south-south-west and 48 such explosions 8-10km north-north-west, 16 as impacts of such rounds 8-10km north-north-west and 12 as impacts of such rounds 8-10km south-south-west and eight undetermined), 3-10km south-south-west and 8-10km north-north-west. On the same evening, while in government-controlled Svitlodarsk (57km north-east of Donetsk) the SMM heard 71 explosions (52 assessed as caused by outgoing artillery rounds, one as an impact of such a round, three as impacts of 82mm mortar rounds, two as outgoing recoilless gun rounds and 13 undetermined) 7-10km south-west and 4-7km south-east.

On the night of 24-25 February the SMM camera in Shyrokyne (20km east of Mariupol) recorded in sequence one undetermined explosion and nine tracer rounds in flight from west to east at an undetermined distance north and north-east. The following evening, the camera recorded in sequence 12 tracer rounds in flight from east to west, followed by three tracer rounds following the same trajectory, then five tracer rounds in flight from west to east and five such rounds in the opposite direction. On the evening of 24 February, while in government-controlled Volnovakha (53km south of Donetsk) in half an hour the SMM heard 16 undetermined explosions 8-10km south-south-east.

On 25 February, the SMM noted an increase of violence in the area of “DPR”-controlled Pikuzy (formerly Kominternove, 23km north-east of Mariupol), “DPR”-controlled Khreshchatytske (formerly Krasnoarmiiske, 33km north-east of Mariupol) and “DPR”-controlled Verkhnoshyrokivske (formerly Oktiabr, 29km north-east of Mariupol). Positioned 1km north of government-controlled Pyshchevyk (25km north-east of Mariupol), within an hour in the afternoon the SMM heard 42 undetermined explosions at an undetermined distance south-south-east and south-east. Positioned in “DPR”-controlled Sosnivske (35km north-east of Mariupol), in eight minutes the SMM heard 30 undetermined explosions at an undetermined distance south-west. Positioned in Verkhnoshyrokivske the SMM heard seven undetermined explosions 1-4km south and three undetermined explosions and uncountable shots of small-arms fire 1-2km south-west. Positioned 2km south of “DPR”-controlled Sakhanka (24km north-east of Mariupol), within an hour in the morning, the SMM heard two explosions it assessed as outgoing mortar rounds 200m west and one explosion assessed as an impact of a mortar round 1km south. On 26 February, positioned in Pikuzy, the SMM heard 11 undetermined explosions 2-6km south-west. Positioned in “DPR”-controlled Zaichenko (26km north-east of Mariupol), the SMM heard 19 undetermined explosions, 2-8km south-west and south-south-west.

In Luhansk region the SMM recorded more ceasefire violations on 25 February, including over 200 explosions compared with some 150 explosions recorded on 24 February. On 26 February, the SMM recorded 80 explosions. The SMM recorded a total of 115 explosions assessed as caused by artillery rounds and 64 explosions assessed as caused by mortar rounds in the western and northern parts of Luhansk region on 25 and 26 February.

While in “LPR”-controlled Kadiivka (formerly Stakhanov, 50km west of Luhansk) on 25 February, the SMM heard 137 undetermined explosions (75 of which assessed as caused by artillery rounds of unknown calibre) 10km north-west and west. The following day, the SMM heard two undetermined explosions 10km north-west. On 25 February, positioned in government-controlled Katerynivka (64km west of Luhansk), within 20 minutes after noon, the SMM heard 42 explosions (six of which assessed as caused by 152mm artillery rounds) 5-7km south-east. On the same day, within 15 minutes after noon, positioned in government-controlled Staryi Aidar (20km north-west of Luhansk) the SMM heard 15 undetermined explosions assessed as caused by artillery rounds 20km south-east. On 26 February, positioned in government-controlled areas of Zolote (60km west of Luhansk), the SMM heard a total of 49 explosions assessed as caused by 82mm mortar rounds 3-7km south-west and south-south-west, all assessed as occurring outside the disengagement area. On the same day, positioned in “LPR”-controlled Kalynove-Borshchuvate (61km west of Luhansk), in less than 20 minutes before noon, the SMM heard 17 undetermined explosions assessed as caused by artillery rounds of unknown calibre 7-10km west-north-west and six undetermined explosions 3-5km west-north-west.

The SMM followed up on reports of civilian casualties and shelling. On 24 February in government-controlled Popasna (69km west of Luhansk) the SMM saw three fresh impacts around 50 meters from the road T-504 and a Ukrainian Armed Forces position. The SMM assessed that all impacts had been caused by 120mm mortar rounds fired from a south-easterly direction. The SMM was accompanied by Ukrainian officers of the Joint Centre for Control and Co-ordination (JCCC), who said that no casualties had been reported.

In Avdiivka, on 25 February, the SMM saw a collapsed house and structural damage to a summer kitchen building on Chernyshevskoho Street. The SMM assessed that the house had been damaged by a shell of at least 122mm in calibre fired from direction ranging from east-south-east to south-south-east. The owners of the house told the SMM that nobody had been injured, the shelling had occurred on the evening of 24 February, and they had heard five more impacts in the area at the time their house had been hit. On Ostrovskoho Street, the SMM saw a fresh crater in soft soil 3m from a house. The SMM noted shrapnel damage to the north-east-facing wall of the house, damage to the roof and all the windows broken. The SMM assessed that the damage had been caused by a shell at least 122mm in calibre fired from directions ranging from east-south-east to south-south-east. The owners of the house told the SMM the shelling had occurred on the evening of 24 February. The SMM noted that Avdiivka and surrounding villages were without power supply as lights were out at shops and power generators were running. On 26 February, the SMM continued to note there was no power supply in Avdiivka.

In Yasynuvata, on 25 February, approximately 2km south-south-west from the checkpoint at the eastern entrance to the village*, the SMM saw shrapnel damage to trees in a wooded area, about five metres from a road. The SMM assessed that the damages had been caused by a 120mm mortar round fired from an unknown direction. Positioned in the area, within an hour before noon, the SMM heard 35 undetermined explosions of rounds from unknown weapon systems 3-5km west, south-west and west-south-west.

In “LPR”-controlled Zolote-5 (61km north-west of Luhansk), on 25 February, the SMM saw damage at three properties on Kutuzova Street. At the first the SMM saw a hole in the roof of a house and a crater in front of the same house. At the second, the SMM noted the top of a tree had been damaged in the backyard of a house, but the house itself was not damaged. At the third, the SMM saw the roof of the house had been damaged. The SMM assessed that all the damage had been caused by automatic-grenade-launcher rounds fired from a northerly direction. Residents told the SMM that nobody had been injured and the shelling had occurred in the afternoon on 24 February.

On 26 February, in Betmanove (former Krasnyi Partizan, “DPR”-controlled, 23km north-east of Donetsk) the SMM saw damage to three residential properties on 70-richchia Zhovtnia Street. At the first site, the SMM noted shrapnel damage to the walls and windows it assessed had been caused by a projectile at least 73mm in calibre fired from a north-north-easterly direction. The owner of one of the damaged houses told the SMM that his wife had suffered shrapnel wounds to her head and right thigh when she had run from the summer kitchen to the house to take their daughter to the basement, as the couple had heard several explosions near their house. He said that the shelling had occurred about 19:40 on 25 February; neighbours from the other houses damaged on the same street confirmed that time. On the opposite side of the street, the SMM saw an impact of the same type of projectile near a tree, and that the tree had been burnt. A car in the yard of the house had been hit with shrapnel, with its windows broken and there was shrapnel damage to the north-north-east-facing wall of the house. At a hospital in Yasynuvata, medical personnel confirmed the injuries the husband of the woman had described. The SMM met her, and she was stable according to medical staff but unable to walk due to the open wound in her right thigh. Positioned at the hospital, the SMM heard 39 undetermined explosions of rounds from unknown weapon systems as well as bursts and shots of heavy-machine-gun and small-arms fire 3-5km west, west-north-west and west-south-west.

The SMM continued to monitor the disengagement process and to pursue full access to the disengagement areas of Stanytsia Luhanska, Zolote (60km west of Luhansk) and Petrivske (41km south of Donetsk), as foreseen in the Framework Decision of the Trilateral Contact Group relating to disengagement of forces and hardware of 21 September. The SMM’s access there remained restricted but the Mission was able to partially monitor them.*

The SMM noted a calm situation while present in and around the disengagement areas near Petrivske.

On 25 February, at a location – 400m south-west from the Ukrainian Armed Forces checkpoint and 800m north-west of the railway track – in government-controlled Katerynivka, inside the Zolote disengagement area the SMM observed three men wearing military-style clothes, one wearing a balaclava (on 24 February at the same location, the SMM saw four men wearing military-style clothes without any visible unit badge, one of them with a pistol in his pocket, see SMM Daily Report 25 February 2017). Only the one wearing a balaclava, who was unarmed, approached the SMM. After approximately five seconds, the SMM heard small-arms fire from behind the civilian building where that man had come out of (single shots and bursts). The SMM’s interlocutor took cover behind the gate while the SMM took cover behind its vehicles, and then immediately left the scene. While reversing its vehicles, the SMM heard two explosions, one of which it saw impact 40-50m away, at the spot where the SMM cars had been parked. While going through the Ukrainian Armed Forces checkpoint, located 300m north-east of the spot, the SMM saw personnel taking firing positions. The SMM left the area and waited at the northern exit of the checkpoint. In total, positioned inside the disengagement area the SMM saw one impact, heard five undetermined explosions, 100 rounds of small-arms fire, ten rounds of heavy-machine-gun fire and five rounds of automatic grenade launcher, all assessed as inside the disengagement area.

On 26 February, in the area between the Ukrainian Armed Forces forward-most position and the “LPR” forward-most position on the bridge to government-controlled Stanytsia Luhanska (16km north-east of Luhansk), the SMM saw seven pieces of ammunition remnants at different locations on the side of the path. The SMM assessed five of these to be fragments of rocket-propelled grenades, but could not assess direction of fire or how fresh they were. One was located 20m north of the broken section of the bridge, the second 110m north of the broken section of the bridge, the third 200m north of that section, the fourth 80m north of it, and the fifth 100m north of it. Some were covered with snow but some were assessed by the SMM to have been there only since the last couple of days. The other two pieces were from unknown weapons (80m and 120m north of the broken section of the bridge) and the SMM was not able to determine the direction of fire or how long they had been present.

Despite the joint statement of 1 February by the Trilateral Contact Group and the consent reached on 15 February, the sides have not yet provided the baseline information requested by the SMM related to weapons to be withdrawn and locations of units and formations.

The SMM continued to monitor the withdrawal of weapons, in implementation of the Package of Measures and its Addendum, as well as the Memorandum.

In violation of the respective withdrawal lines in areas not under government control, the SMM saw: on 25 February: one anti-tank gun (MT-12, Rapira, 100mm) towed by a truck moving west near Khreshchatytske; two anti-tank guided missile systems (9K111 Fagot, 120mm) each mounted on a stationary infantry fighting vehicle (IFV; BMP-1) in Vyshnevyi Dil (13km east of Luhansk); and one stationary tank positioned between civilian houses in Lyman (12km north-west of Luhansk); and on 26 February: two anti-tank guided missile systems (9K111) mounted on two stationary IFV (BMP-1) in Vyshnevyi Dil; one self-propelled howitzer (2S1 Gvozdika, 122mm) on a flatbed trailer towed by a military-type truck, moving south-west near Kadiivka.

In violation of the respective withdrawal lines in government-controlled areas the SMM saw one surface-to-air missile system (9K33 Osa, 210mm) near Kyrylivka (26km north-east of Mariupol), heading east.

The SMM observed weapons that could not be verified as withdrawn, as their storage does not comply with the criteria set out in the 16 October 2015 notification. In areas not controlled by the Government beyond respective withdrawal lines, the SMM saw on 25 February* two self-propelled howitzers (2S1) for the first time and noted three self-propelled howitzers (2S1) as missing, as previously observed.

On 25 February, the SMM revisited a “DPR” permanent storage site, noted four tanks (T-64) as missing and recorded an additional weapon.

The SMM observed armoured combat vehicles and anti-aircraft weapons [2] in the security zone. In non-government-controlled areas, the SMM saw: on 25 February: two stationary IFVs (BMP-1) south of Stanytsia Luhanska (outside the disengagement area); two IFVs (BMP) and two APCs (MTLB), all stationary near Vyshnevyi Dil; one stationary IFV (BMP-1) near Lyman (12km north-west of Luhansk); and on 26 February: at least four IFVs (BMP) stored within a disused building at a former industrial site in Debaltseve (58km north-east of Donetsk), three IFVs (BMP-1) and an APC (MTLB) stationary and in concealed positions adjacent to houses and loaded with ammunition boxes, camouflage netting, shovels and logs in Nova Marivka (64km south of Donetsk), three stationary IFVs (BMP-1) and two APCs (MTLB) in Vyshnevyi Dil, one stationary IFV (BMP-1) in Mykolaivka (15km east of Luhansk), two stationary IFVs (BMP-1) 5km north-east of Luhansk city, two IFVs (BMP-1) stationary along the tree-line north of Lyman.

In government-controlled areas the SMM saw: on 24 February: one stationary APC (BRDM-2) at the entrance to Vrubivka (72km west of Luhansk) and 12 stationary IFVs (BMP-2) at the southern edge of Popasna (69km west of Luhansk); on 25 February: two APCs (a BRDM and a BTR-60) near Klynove (68km north-east of Donetsk) and eight stationary IFVs (BMP), a camouflaged anti-aircraft gun (ZU-23-2), a military engineering vehicle and three small boats near Orikhove (57km north-west of Luhansk); and on 26 February: one stationary IFV (BMP-2) in Kleban Byk (48km north of Donetsk) and one stationary reconnaissance armoured vehicle (BRDM-2) in Vrubivka.

The SMM noted the presence of mines and unexploded ordnance (UXO). On 25 February, the SMM again saw four anti-tank mines laid across the western portion of the main road leading to the Shchastia bridge 1.5km north-east of “LPR”-controlled Lyman (12km north-west of Luhansk) (see SMM Daily Report 23 February 2017). The SMM noted for the first time that the mine hazard signs previously marking a minefield 3km west of government-controlled Shchastia (20km north of Luhansk), were no longer there. On 26 February, the SMM again saw the UXO near the bus stop 1km east of “LPR”-controlled Znamianka (36km north-west of Luhansk) (see SMM Daily Report 22 February 2017).

The SMM continued to monitor blockades at railway tracks, which cross the contact line (see SMM Daily Report 24 February 2017). On 26 February, at the Kryvyi Torets station in government-controlled Shcherbynivka (44km north of Donetsk) the SMM saw the blockade was still present (see SMM Daily Report 17 February 2017). At a bridge at the south-eastern outskirts of Kostiantynivka (government-controlled, 60km north of Donetsk) the SMM saw two 35-ton trucks full of coal moving from south-west to north-east. On both 25 and 26 February, the SMM noted that the railway tracks were still blocked with wooden barriers and barbed wire in Hirske (63km west of Luhansk) and a train was still on the rails. At the government checkpoint near the road junction in government-controlled Karbonit (part of Zolote), the SMM saw seven unarmed men and a civilian vehicle parked nearby on 25 February, and on 26 February it saw four unarmed men and noted a calm situation in the area.

The SMM monitored three border areas currently outside government control. On 25 February, at the Ulianivske border crossing point (61km south-east of Donetsk), in one hour the SMM saw no vehicles or people leaving or entering Ukraine. At the Makariv Yar (formerly Parkhomenko, 28km east of Luhansk) border area, the SMM noted a calm situation, but an armed “LPR” member refused to engage in conversation with the SMM. At the Novoborovytsi pedestrian border crossing point (79km south of Luhansk), the SMM noted that it was unstaffed as observed on numerous occasions and in over an hour there saw three pedestrians (two middle-aged women and a girl) exit Ukraine.

On 26 February, the SMM monitored a public gathering in relation to events in Crimea at the Chonhar crossing point (163km south-east of Kherson) near the administrative boundary line with Crimea. A group of about 200-250 Crimean Tatars and local residents (men and women, different age groups) walked from the Crimean Tatar encampment to the crossing point, carrying Ukrainian, Crimean Tatar and Crimean Tatar battalion flags and chanting. Several speeches were held by the local authorities and Crimean Tatar leaders. The SMM observed some 50 border guard officers present at the site. The event passed off peacefully.

In Kyiv the SMM monitored a public gathering on the same issue. About 250 people (mostly middle aged men) carrying banners and flags, mostly Ukrainian and Crimean Tatar, as they marched in central Kyiv and gathered at the Maidan square where several speeches were held. The event passed off peacefully.

The SMM continued monitoring in Odessa, Lviv, Ivano-Frankivsk, Kharkiv, Dnipro, and Chernivtsi.

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

The SMM’s monitoring and freedom of movement are restricted by security hazards and threats, including risks posed by mines, unexploded ordnance (UXO), 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. They have also agreed that the JCCC should contribute to such response and co-ordinate mine clearance.

Denial of access:

On both 25 and 26 February, in the Stanytsia Luhanska disengagement area a Ukrainian officer of the JCCC told the SMM that, with the exception of the main road, its safety could not be guaranteed in the surrounding areas due to the possible presence of mines and UXO. The SMM informed the JCCC.

On both 25 and 26 February, the possible presence of mines and UXO prevented the SMM from travelling further south-east into the Zolote disengagement area from government-controlled Katerynivka (64km west of Luhansk). The Mission informed the JCCC.

On both 25 and 26 February, at an “LPR” checkpoint at the edge of the Zolote disengagement area armed men told the SMM that its safety could not be guaranteed in fields and side roads due to the possible presence of mines and UXO. The Mission observed mine hazard signs in the area. The SMM informed the JCCC.

On both 25 and 26 February, Ukrainian Armed Force personnel stopped the SMM from traveling from Katerynivka and government-controlled Popasna (69km west of Luhansk), citing a lack of permission from their commander due to the area not having been demined. The Mission informed the JCCC.

On both 25 and 26 February, the SMM could not travel across the bridge in Shchastia as Ukrainian Armed Forces personnel said there were mines on the road south of the bridge. The SMM informed the JCCC.

On 25 February, an armed “DPR” member denied the SMM access to a weapons holding area, citing orders from his superior. The Mission informed the JCCC.

On 25 February, armed men denied the SMM access to Yasynuvata on two occasions, citing security concerns. The SMM informed the JCCC.

On 25 February, Ukrainian Armed Forces personnel prevented the SMM from proceeding further north from government-controlled Vodiane (19km north-east of Mariupol) and told the SMM that in addition to the mines already present, new anti-tank mines had been laid on the road ahead. The Mission informed the JCCC.

On 25 February, an armed man denied the SMM access to the village of Pikuzy. The Mission informed the JCCC.

On 25 February, an armed man denied the SMM access to the village of Sosnivske. The SMM informed the JCCC.

On 26 February, Ukrainian Armed Forces personnel denied the SMM access to a weapons holding area, for the eleventh consecutive time. The SMM informed the JCCC.

On 26 February, Ukrainian Armed Forces personnel denied the SMM passage through a checkpoint in the south-eastern part of government-controlled Nyzhnoteple (26km north of Luhansk).

Conditional access:

Armed men only allowed the SMM access through a checkpoint north of Horlivka after noting down personal information and inspecting the trunks of the SMM vehicles. After 37 minutes the SMM was allowed to proceed. The Mission informed the JCCC.

[1] Please see the annexed table for a complete breakdown of the ceasefire violations as well as map of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions marked with locations featured in this report.

[2] This hardware is not proscribed by the provisions of the Minsk agreements on the withdrawal of weapons.

Contacts:

Alexandra Taylor
26 Turhenievska Street
01054 Kyiv
Ukraine
mobile: +380 67 650 31 57
alexandra.taylor@osce.org

Mariia Aleksevych
26 Turhenievska Street
01054 Kyiv
Ukraine
office: +380 44 392 0832
mobile: +380 50 381 5192
mobile: +380 93 691 6790
mariia.aleksevych@osce.org