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*. Fighting continued around Donetsk airport and Shyrokyne. The SMM observed military movement on both sides of the contact line.
Between 09:40 and 13:22hrs, while at the observation post of the Joint Centre for Control and Co-ordination at the Donetsk railway station (“Donetsk People’s Republic” (“DPR”)-controlled, 8km north-west of Donetsk), the SMM heard 356 explosions, anti-aircraft machine gun, automatic grenade launcher, heavy machinegun and small arms fire (complete breakdown of the ceasefire violations). The SMM estimates that the majority of the explosions were caused by 82mm and 120mm mortar fire. The JCCC made three ceasefire attempts around the airport at 10:30, 11:00 and 11:30hrs, but none of them succeeded.
The SMM met “DPR” members at the destroyed new terminal of Donetsk airport (“DPR”-controlled, 11km north-west of Donetsk) who stated that the building had suffered heavy shelling during the night of 21 to 22 April. They also said that they had identified the smell of what they believe to be decomposing human remains under the ruins. The SMM could not verify this information. While at this location, the SMM heard exchanges of heavy artillery and mortar fire with two impacts consistent with artillery shell 700m south-south-east of the SMM’s position.
The SMM visited the market in “DPR”-controlled Donetsk city’s Kuibishevskiy district where citizens and vendors said they had observed unarmed/unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) above their houses and militia patrolling in the district during the evening hours. The SMM could not verify this information.
The SMM continued to monitor the situation in Shyrokyne (20km east of Mariupol). Whilst there it heard sporadic small arms, machine gun and grenade launcher fire from south-west of its position. The SMM noted an increased amount of unexploded ordnance (UXO) in the village. While at the observation post in Berdianske (government-controlled, 18,5km east of Mariupol, 1,5km west of Shyrokyne) the SMM was approached by two civilians, a female and a male, who said that exchange of mortar between Shyrokyne and Berdianske had started shortly after the SMM’s departure from the observation post on 21 April.
The SMM travelled to the international border crossing point between Ukraine and the Russian Federation in Novoazovsk (“DPR”-controlled, 52km east of Mariupol) where it observed approximately 50 civilian vehicles. A “DPR” border guard said to the SMM that most of the travellers are entering the Russian Federation for the purposes of buying food and medical supplies.
The SMM met the “DPR” “minister of education” who said that 17,973 of the 143,716 pupils in the Donetsk region were enrolled in distance educational programs as a result of their schools having been destroyed or damaged adding that 523 educational facilities needed repair. Distance educational programs involve teachers providing education in the homes of pupils.
In Luhanske (government-controlled, 55km north-east of Donetsk) local residents said to the SMM that they had been informally advised by the Ukrainian Armed Forces to leave the town before 9 May for their own safety as hostilities are anticipated to escalate around this date. The acting Ukrainian Armed Forces commander operating in Luhanske’s kindergarten said that the situation remained calm with sporadic small arms fire during the last 24 hours. The SMM also visited the local primary school in Luhanske which had been used by the Ukrainian Armed Forces in January-February for a period of three weeks and observed major damages outside and inside the building.
In Krasnodon (“Lugansk People’s Republic” (“LPR”)-controlled, 43km south-east of Luhansk) interlocutors from the “local administration” said to the SMM that the “LPR” had delivered 2,000 food packages to the elderly and had recently started processing pension payments to the 43,000 pensioners in town. Pensions are paid in Russian roubles and in the corresponding amount as previously received from the Ukrainian government.
The SMM met the “head” of the “village council” in Tsentralnyi (“LPR”-controlled, 60km south-west of Luhansk) who said that the “village council” had registered damage to 358 houses and that the village was in need of construction materials for repair of roofs and windows. The SMM observed that almost all houses had their windows blown out and the roofs of many damaged. The interlocutor also said that the school, which they were hoping to reopen in September, had been damaged by an Uragan missile impact. Local residents informed the SMM that they had not received pensions since January.
The SMM visited the “LPR”-controlled side of Stanytsia Luhanska bridge (16km north-east of Luhansk) and observed many pedestrians, male and female, crossing the bridge in both directions. As at a previous visit (see SMM Daily Report 11 April), civilians complained to the SMM about the process of crossing and, in particular, about the fact that they can no longer submit applications for permit on the spot since the establishment of an additional Ukrainian Armed Forces checkpoint a week ago. The Ukrainian police officer manning the first checkpoint north of the bridge said to the SMM that he had orders to allow only permit holders or internally displaced persons to cross which forced them at times to refuse entry to elderly people who had walked all the way from the “LPR” checkpoint only to find they could not pass through the government-controlled checkpoint and reach the next government-controlled checkpoint where they would be able to obtain a permit.
The SMM revisited three “DPR” heavy weapons holding areas and was able to verify that all weapons previously recorded as present by the SMM were on site.
Despite claims that the withdrawal of heavy weapons was completed, the SMM continued to observe the presence of heavy weapons inside the exclusion zone. In “LPR”-controlled areas the SMM observed the same heavy weapons present as the days before (see SMM Daily Reports 19, 20, 21, 2015). In government-controlled areas the SMM observed seven tanks (T-64).
The SMM UAV monitored both sides of the contact line east of Mariupol and saw burning houses in Shyrokyne on the night of 22-23 April. In Shyrokyne, the UAV observed two firing positions (personnel, activity, hot equipment) likely recently used. The UAV observed anti-aircraft firing 3-5km north of government-controlled Manhush (107km south-west of Donetsk) at 02:52hrs and from 04:04 to 04:32hrs. During these flights the UAV observed many main battle tanks (MBTs), artillery and armoured vehicles in “DPR”-controlled Oktyabr, Zaichenko (27 and 25km north-east of Mariupol respectively) and Bezimenne (28km east of Mariupol). In government-controlled areas, the UAV also saw MBTs in Pavlopil and Dzerzhynske (28 and 27km north-east of Mariupol respectively).
The SMM visited the Oleksandrivka border crossing point between Ukraine and the Russian Federation (60km north-west of Kharkiv) where the commanding officer told the SMM that communication between the Ukrainian and the Russian Federation border guards remains minimal and aerial surveys by helicopters are regularly conducted by both sides. Since 16 March, the crossing point can only be used by Ukrainian citizens (see SMM Daily Report 14 March). Apart from the 2-3 daily buses in each direction transporting passengers, crossing in Oleksandrivka is only accessible to pedestrians.
The SMM monitored two parallel protests on Kharkiv’s Constitution Square. The first one gathered around 30 young pro-unity activists, men and women, at the Independence Monument. The protestors placed a Ukrainian flag and blue-yellow ribbons on the statue’s hands. Opposite the monument in front of the History Museum, some 20, mostly elderly female members of the trade union “Kharkiv Labour” protested against inflation, unemployment and what they referred to as “Kyiv’s anti-communist policy”. Around 200 police officers were present and the event ended peacefully.
In Odessa the SMM monitored the weekly meeting of the Co-ordination Council (an umbrella group of several non-governmental organizations) where participants outlined plans for the forthcoming commemoration of the 2 May events (See SMM Daily Report 4 and 5 May 2014). All but one of the pro-maidan self-defence groups agreed to refrain from any action at Kulykove Pole on the day of the anniversary.
The SMM observed two protests of coal miners in Kyiv. Around a thousand male miners from the Donetsk, Luhansk, Dnepropetrovsk, Lviv and Volyn regions, aged 20 to 60, gathered in front of the Presidential Administration and demanded the resignation of the Minister of Energy and Coal Industry, repayment of wage arrears, market prices for Ukrainian coal, better social protection for miners and the development of the coal mining industry. Some 20 police officers were present and the protestors left the area at 12:00hrs. Later on, at around 16:00hrs some 300 miners protested in front of the Ministry of Coal and Energy where they erected a tent and blocked the traffic on Khreshchatyk and Prorizna Streets. Some 100 riot police officers were present and at 18:00hrs the demonstrators began to disburse and the streets were unblocked.
The SMM observed another protest in Kyiv with 160 participants of mixed gender and age in front of the Ministry of Agriculture and Food demanding land allocation to “Anti-Terrorism Operation” veterans and Kyiv citizens. Some 15 police officers were present at the event, which ended peacefully.
The SMM continued to monitor the situation in Dnepropetrovsk, Kherson, Ivano-Frankivsk, Chernivtsi 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.
- While at the premises of the school in Bairachky (“LPR”-controlled, 56km south-west of Luhansk), the SMM was approached by eight armed Cossack personnel, one of them identifying himself as a “local commander under the Great Don Army”. He instructed the SMM to leave the village Bairachky. The SMM explained its mandate and purpose of visit but the armed personnel did not change their position and escorted the SMM to the edge of the village.
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