Latest from the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (SMM), based on information received as of 19:30, 18 December 2017

This report is for the media and the general public.

The SMM recorded fewer ceasefire violations in Donetsk region and a similar number in Luhansk region compared with the previous reporting period. The Mission continued monitoring the disengagement areas near Stanytsia Luhanska, Zolote and Petrivske. Its access remained restricted in the disengagement areas and elsewhere, including near Yurivka and Khoroshe.* The Mission saw weapons in violation of withdrawal lines near Bakhmut. In Donetsk region the SMM confirmed that Russian Federation Armed Forces officers of the Joint Centre for Control and Co-ordination (JCCC) had withdrawn from their duties in five JCCC offices. The SMM was positioned on both sides of the Maiorsk entry-exit checkpoint to monitor their crossing of the contact line, but no crossing took place. The SMM observed a calm situation at the protest camp near the Parliament building in Kyiv.

In Donetsk region the SMM recorded fewer ceasefire violations[1], including about 650 explosions, compared with the previous reporting period (about 790 explosions).

While in government-controlled Svitlodarsk (57km north-east of Donetsk) on the evening of 17-18 December, the SMM heard 172 undetermined explosions at eastern, southerly and western directions at distances ranging 2-10km, 71 explosions assessed as outgoing rounds (including six assessed as 120mm mortar rounds) 2-5km east and south-east, 31 explosions assessed as impacts (including three assessed as artillery rounds 1-2km east, two assessed as 82mm mortar rounds and the remainder undetermined) 1-5km east and south-east, six minutes of uncountable overlapping bursts of infantry fighting vehicle (IFV) (BMP-2) cannon (30mm), heavy-machine-gun and small-arms fire 1-7km east and south-east and heavy-machine-gun and small-arms fire 2-5km south-east. On the same evening, the SMM also saw eight outgoing explosions (two assessed as artillery and the remainder undetermined) 5-12km west and south-east (and heard seven subsequent impacts 1-2km east and 3-5km west)

Positioned at the same location during the day on 18 December, the SMM heard 85 undetermined explosions, 29 explosions assessed as impacts (seven assessed as mortar (82mm) rounds, one as recoilless gun (SPG-9) (73mm) fire and the remainder undetermined) and bursts of IFV (BMP-2) cannon and automatic grenade launcher (AGS) fire 2-5km at directions ranging from south-east to west.

On the night of 17-18 December, the SMM camera at the Donetsk Filtration Station (15km north of Donetsk) recorded, in sequence, an undetermined explosion, a projectile in flight from east to west, two undetermined explosions, a projectile from east to west and two from west to east, followed by a total of 86 undetermined explosions, 178 projectiles from east to west and 107 projectiles from west to east, all 0.5-1.5km south. During the day on 18 December, the camera recorded 32 projectiles from east to west, three from west to east, two undetermined explosions, an airburst and a projectile in vertical flight, all 0.5-1.5km south.

On the night of 17-18 December, the SMM camera 1km south-west of Shyrokyne (20km east of Mariupol) recorded a total of 69 projectiles in flight from east to west, eight from west to east and three undetermined explosions, all 5-8km north.

Positioned at the railway station in “DPR”-controlled Yasynuvata (16km north-east of Donetsk) for about five hours, the SMM heard 72 undetermined explosions, heavy-machine-gun and small-arms fire – including one minute of uncountable overlapping bursts – 1-3km east and 2-5km west and north-west.

Positioned on the south-western edge of government-controlled Avdiivka (17km north of Donetsk) for about six hours, the SMM heard 54 undetermined explosions and heavy-machine-gun and small-arms fire 2-4km east, south, south-east and south-south-west.

Positioned at the central railway station in “DPR”-controlled Donetsk (6km north-west of Donetsk city centre) for about three and a half hours, the SMM heard 13 undetermined explosions and small-arms fire 2-5km west and north-west.

Positioned in “DPR”-controlled Bezimenne (30km east of Mariupol) for about 20 minutes, the SMM heard 21 undetermined explosions at an unknown distance north-west.

In Luhansk region, the SMM recorded a similar number of ceasefire violations, including 239 explosions, compared with the previous reporting period (about 240 explosions).

While in government-controlled Popasna (69km west of Luhansk) on the night of 17-18 December, the SMM heard 135 undetermined explosions 3-10km south-west and south-east, 23 assessed as outgoing explosions (20 as impacts of mortar (82mm) rounds, three as IFV (BMP-1) cannon (73mm) rounds 3-4km south-east), 40 explosions assessed as outgoing and impacts of artillery (152mm) rounds 6-8km south-west, two explosions assessed as impacts of mortar (82mm) rounds 3-4km south-east and automatic grenade launcher (AGS-17), heavy-machine-gun and small-arms fire 3-4km south-east.

Positioned in “LPR”-controlled Berezivske (53km north-west of Luhansk), the SMM heard 22 explosions 7-12km east over 12 minutes.

In Donetsk region, the SMM confirmed that Russian Federation Armed Forces officers of the JCCC had withdrawn from their duties in five JCCC offices. The SMM called JCCC duty phones in “DPR”-controlled Oleksandrivka (20km south-west of Donetsk) and Yasynuvata on 18 December and found that they were answered by persons who introduced themselves as “ministry of emergency situations” members. The duty phone in “DPR”-controlled Debaltseve (58km north-east of Donetsk) was answered by someone introducing himself as an “LPR” member of a “contact group”.

Ahead of the plan of the Russian Federation Armed Forces to withdraw their JCCC officers from Ukraine on 19 December, the SMM was ready to facilitate and monitor their crossing of the contact line at the Maiorsk entry-exit checkpoint (45km north-east of Donetsk). A Ukrainian Armed Forces representative of the JCCC told the SMM that they expected the arrival of two buses from Kharkiv sometime after 17:00. When the SMM left the area at 17:10 no crossing had taken place. However, the SMM was told by the Russian side that the Russian Federation Armed Forces JCCC contingent had not crossed the contact line on 18 December, as they said the buses required to transport them were not available. They told the SMM that they would attempt to cross the contact line again on 19 December.

The SMM followed up on reports of damage to residential areas in “DPR”-controlled Sakhanka (24km north-east of Mariupol). At 20 Zhovtneva Street, the SMM saw a fresh crater on a road 6m from a house. The house had sustained minor shrapnel marks to the west-facing walls and had broken west-facing windows. The SMM saw a second crater, about 50m further west from the first. A female resident (in her fifties) told the SMM that the area was shelled between 10:30 and 11:00 on 17 December.

The SMM continued to monitor the disengagement process and to pursue full access to the disengagement areas near Stanytsia Luhanska (16km north-east of Luhansk), 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 2016. The SMM’s access remained restricted but the Mission was able to partially monitor them.*

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 a government-controlled area, the SMM observed two self-propelled howitzers (2S1, Gvozdika 122mm) near government-controlled Bakhmut (formerly Artemivsk, 67km north of Donetsk).

Beyond the withdrawal lines in an area outside of government control, the SMM observed two stationary tanks (T-64) near Uspenka (23km south-west of Luhansk).

Beyond the withdrawal lines but outside designated storage sites in government-controlled areas, the SMM observed four towed howitzers (2A36 Giatsint-B, 152mm) near Azovske (22km south-west of Mariupol).

The SMM observed armoured combat vehicles and anti-aircraft weapons,[2] and other indications of military-type presence in the security zone. In government-controlled areas, an SMM mid-range unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) spotted two armoured personnel carriers (APC) (one MT-LB and one undetermined) near Lobacheve (17km north-west of Luhansk) on 15 December and an anti-aircraft gun (ZU-23, 23mm) near Sakhanka on 17 December. On 18 December, the SMM saw 11 IFVs (eight BMP-1s and three BMP variants), an APC (MT-LB) and two reconnaissance vehicles (BRM-1K) in different areas near Popasna, as well as an IFV (BMP-2) near Novotroitske (36km south-west of Donetsk).

In non-government-controlled areas, an SMM mid-range UAV spotted six APCs (five BTR variants and one MT-LB with a probable anti-aircraft gun (ZU-23) mounted on top) and a reconnaissance vehicle (BDRM) near Uzhivka (96km south of Donetsk) on 17 December. On 18 December, the SMM saw five IFVs (three BMP-2s and two BMP-1) near Novolaspa (50km south of Donetsk).

Between “DPR”-controlled Azov (formerly Dzerzhynske, 25km north-east of Mariupol) and Nova Tavriia (25km north-east of Mariupol), the SMM saw two recently excavated trenches (one or two days old) both 4-6m long and 1.5m deep in fields west of the road.

The SMM visited two border crossing points in areas outside of government-control. During an hour-long visit to the border crossing point in Izvaryne (52km south-east of Luhansk), the SMM saw 16 cars, a minivan, a bus, a covered truck and 60 pedestrians (24 women and 36 men, aged 20-70) exiting Ukraine. The SMM saw a man (aged about 45) in military-style winter camouflage clothing with a badge reading “Polite People” (written in Russian) on his left arm, carrying a sports bag. The SMM saw 16 cars, four covered trucks (one with “LPR” plates on the front and Ukrainian licence plates on the back), a bus (carrying about 40 passengers), 90 pedestrians (40 men and 50 women, aged 20-70 and two girls aged about six) entering Ukraine.

During a thirty-minute visit to the pedestrian border crossing point in Verkhnohasymivka (57km south-east of Luhansk), the SMM saw four people (all women, aged about 50) exiting Ukraine and nine people (five men, aged about 40 and four women, aged about 55) entering Ukraine.

The SMM observed a calm situation at the protest camp near the Parliament building in Kyiv and saw five people warming themselves next to a fire. The SMM observed a small number of police officers outside the Parliament building.

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