Latest from the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (SMM), based on information received as of 19:30, 15 March 2017
This report is for the media and the general public.
The SMM recorded a similar overall number of ceasefire violations in Donetsk and Luhansk regions as in the previous reporting period, but twice as many explosions in Luhansk region than in the previous period, most in areas west of Kadiivka. The Mission followed up on civilian casualties in Avdiivka, Bakhmut and Horlivka, and observed damage to civilian property in Lobacheve, Stanytsia Luhanska bridge and Pavlopil. The Mission monitored the disengagement areas in Stanytsia Luhanska, Zolote and Petrivske, but its access remained restricted.* The SMM camera recorded ceasefire violations inside the Stanytsia Luhanska area. The Mission observed weapons in violation of withdrawal lines and missing from storage sites. It visited two border areas currently not under government control. The Mission continued to monitor the blockade of routes crossing the contact line and monitored demonstrations in support of the blockade. It monitored continuation of a protest outside a bank office in Kyiv and followed up on a similar protest in Dnipro.
In Donetsk region the SMM recorded a similar number of ceasefire violations, including a similar number of explosions (about 700), as in the previous reporting period.
On the evening of 14 March, while in “DPR”-controlled Donetsk city centre, the SMM heard 27 undetermined explosions 8-10km north-west. The next day, the SMM camera at the Oktiabr mine (9km north-west of Donetsk city centre) recorded seven undetermined explosions and, in sequence: one projectile from north-east to south-west and two from south-west to north-east; 160 tracer rounds in flight from west to east; 20 from east to west; and 25 from west to east, all 8-12km north-east of the camera’s location. This exchange was followed by about 70 undetermined explosions and two projectiles in flight from south to north, all 2-8km north-north-east and north-east.
During the day on 15 March, positioned in government-controlled Avdiivka (17km north of Donetsk) for about two and a half hours, the SMM heard 28 undetermined explosions 3-4km south-east. The SMM camera in Avdiivka recorded three undetermined explosions in the same area, and 13 undetermined explosions and three airbursts 4-6km south-south-east.
Positioned in “DPR”-controlled Yasynuvata (16km north-east of Donetsk) for about seven hours, the SMM heard 41 undetermined explosions 4-10km south-west and west, ten and later 21 explosions assessed as outgoing mortar (82mm) rounds 4-5km south-west and the respective subsequent impacts 1-2km south-west.
On the night of 14-15 March, while in government-controlled Svitlodarsk (57km north-east of Donetsk), the SMM heard about 150 undetermined explosions at locations 4-12km ranging from north-east to south-east. The Mission also heard 50 explosions assessed as outgoing artillery rounds and five as outgoing mortar rounds, at locations 3-12km east and south-east; and 59 explosions assessed as outgoing artillery rounds 4-7km north and the subsequent impacts 10-12km south-east. The next day, positioned in government-controlled Kamianka (20km north of Donetsk), the SMM heard 17 undetermined explosions and one assessed as the impact of a round from an undetermined weapon, all 5-7km south-south-east and south.
During the day on 15 March, positioned in Mariupol (102km south of Donetsk), the SMM heard seven undetermined explosions at undetermined distances east. Positioned 11km north-east of the city centre the SMM heard ten explosions assessed as outgoing rounds from undetermined weapon systems 5-6km north-west, 15 assessed as impacts of rounds from undetermined weapon systems 5-6km north-east and 11 explosions assessed as artillery rounds 5-7km north-east.
On the night of 14-15 March the SMM camera in Shyrokyne (20km east of Mariupol) recorded an exchange of fire beginning with six rocket-assisted projectiles (the first from south-east to north-west and the following five east to west) and three tracer rounds in flight from east to west, followed by 11 tracer rounds and ten rocket-assisted projectiles from west to east, all at undetermined distances north-north-east. The exchange continued with, in total, 165 tracer rounds in flight (12 west to east, 11 west-north-west to east-south-east, 139 east to west, two east-south-east to west-north-west), two rocket-assisted projectiles in flight from east to west and three undetermined explosions, all at undetermined distances north and north-north-east.
Positioned in different locations in government-controlled areas north-east of Mariupol, the SMM heard: eight explosions assessed as impacts of rounds from undetermined weapon systems 2-5km east-south-east; 15 assessed as outgoing rounds from undetermined weapon systems 3-5km west; and eight undetermined explosions 2-5km north-east and south-east of its position near Hnutove (20km north-east of Mariupol); 22 undetermined explosions 4-5km north-east of Lebedynske (16km north-east of Mariupol); and 40 undetermined explosions 5-10km at directions ranging from south-south-east to south-south-west of its position at the south-western edge of Kyrylivka (26km north-east of Mariupol).
Positioned 2.2km south of “DPR”-controlled Sakhanka (24km north-east of Mariupol) the SMM heard seven explosions assessed as outgoing artillery rounds 8-10km north-west and the subsequent impacts 8-10km north, and 15 explosions assessed as outgoing artillery rounds 8-10km west-north-west.
In Luhansk region the SMM recorded a similar number of ceasefire violations, but twice as many explosions (about 130) compared with the previous reporting period (64). On the evening of 14 March, while in “LPR”-controlled Kadiivka (formerly Stakhanov, 50km west of Luhansk), the SMM heard 49 undetermined explosions 10km west and south-west and 40 explosions assessed as impacts of fire from multiple-launch rocket systems (MLRS) (BM-21 Grad, 122mm) 10km west.
The next day the SMM heard ten undetermined explosions attributed to live-fire exercises, including six explosions 10km north-north-east of “LPR”-controlled Malomykolaivka (36km south-west of Luhansk) and four explosions assessed as artillery (type unknown) rounds 4-5km east of its position 3km west of government-controlled Dmytrivka (43km north of Luhansk), all assessed as outside the security zone.
Positioned in areas north-west of Luhansk city the SMM heard five undetermined explosions 5km north-north-east of “LPR”-controlled Zhovte (17km north-west of Luhansk); 11 undetermined explosions 15km south-west of government-controlled Lobacheve (17km north-west of Luhansk); and three undetermined explosions 10km south-south-west of its position in “LPR”-controlled areas south-east of the government-controlled Shchastia bridge (20km north of Luhansk). Positioned in government-controlled Popasna (69km west of Luhansk), the SMM heard nine undetermined explosions 3-6km east and south-south-east.
The SMM followed up on reports of civilian casualties and observed damage to civilian property. Following up on reports of a civilian casualty allegedly wounded in shelling in the industrial zone in Avdiivka on 13 March, the SMM visited a hospital in the town. Medical staff said that a 37-year-old woman had been admitted to the hospital with a shrapnel injury to her abdomen, on the same day.
At a hospital in government-controlled Bakhmut (formerly Artemivsk, 67km north of Donetsk), medical staff told the SMM that on 14 March a 62-year-old woman had been admitted to the hospital with a bullet wound to her leg. The staff added that, according to the victim, she had been struck by a bullet while working in her garden in government-controlled Luhanske (59km north-east of Donetsk).
Following up on reports of two men injured by shelling while repairing a roof of a house at 187 Polietaieva Street in Zaitseve (50km north-east of Donetsk), the SMM visited two hospitals in “DPR”-controlled Horlivka (39km north-east of Donetsk). At one hospital, the SMM saw a man (about 50 years old) being carried out of an ambulance. He was in civilian clothes, covered in blood, and with visible injuries to his head and right leg. The ambulance attendant said that the patient was from “DPR”-controlled parts of Zaitseve. At a second hospital in Horlivka, medical staff refused to provide information to the SMM and said it must obtain permission from senior “DPR” members.
In Avdiivka, the SMM observed lack of power in the town, including at the building where the SMM camera is located. The camera was not operational during the night time and started working again in the morning on generator power. Two officers of the Joint Centre for Control and Co-ordination (JCCC), one Ukrainian and one Russian, said that a power line supplying Avdiivka had been damaged by grenade shrapnel and that the entire town of Avdiivka had been without power since 17:00 on 14 March.
In government-controlled Lobacheve (17km north-west of Luhansk), following up on reports of shelling on 14 March, the SMM observed a fresh crater in the back yard of a house 5m west of 15 Donetska Street. Five north-west-facing windows were broken and the north-west-facing wall had 20-25 holes of different sizes. The SMM assessed the damage as having been caused by an anti-tank round (PG9) fired from a north-westerly direction. At 2A Donetska Street the SMM observed a fresh crater in the garden, 2m east of an inhabited house. Two east-facing windows were broken and the east-facing wall had 30-35 holes of different sizes. The SMM assessed the impact as having been caused by an anti-tank round (PG9) fired from an easterly direction. At 22 Shevchenka Street the SMM observed a fresh crater 40m south of an abandoned house. The south-east-facing wooden fence had sustained minor damage. The SMM assessed this damage, too, as caused by an anti-tank round (PG9), fired from a south-easterly direction. The Mission also observed a crew of three men repairing a ruptured gas line nearby.
At 21 and 23 Juvileina Street in government-controlled Pavlopil (26km north-east of Mariupol), following up on reports of shelling on 14 March, the SMM saw small holes on the southern façade of two houses, but no windows broken. A nearby power line was also damaged. The SMM also observed three craters in a nearby field. Due to security considerations, the SMM could not approach the craters to assess the type of weapon or the direction of fire. A village resident said that shelling had occurred on 14 March.
The SMM continued to monitor the disengagement process and to pursue full access to the disengagement areas of 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. The SMM’s access remained restricted but the Mission was able to partially monitor them.*
On 13 March, the SMM camera in Stanytsia Luhanska recorded eight shots of small-arms fire 1km south-south-east, assessed as inside the disengagement area.
At the “LPR” checkpoint south of the Stanytsia Luhanska bridge, a Russian officer of the JCCC, “LPR” members and the head of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) Luhansk office showed the SMM six holes in the south-west facing walls of an ICRC warming container and a shattered window. The SMM assessed the damage as fresh. On a north-facing slope 20-30m south-west of the wall the SMM observed an impact site, but could not assess the type of weapon or direction of fire as it could not approach the site due to security reasons.
On 13 March the SMM camera in Zolote recorded an explosion assessed as caused by artillery or mortar fire, five flashes 3km east and ten flashes 1.5km east-south-east, all assessed as outside the disengagement area. On 15 March, positioned 2km south-west of government-controlled Katerynivka (64km west of Luhansk), the SMM heard one undetermined explosion 3km south-east, assessed as outside the disengagement area.
Positioned east of government-controlled Bohdanivka (41km south-west of Donetsk), at the western edge of the Petrivske disengagement area, the SMM heard six explosions assessed as outgoing and seven as impacts of mortar rounds at an undetermined distance north-north-east.
The SMM continued to monitor the withdrawal of weapons, in implementation of the Package of Measures, its Addendum, and the Memorandum.
In addition to the numerous weapons referred to above, the SMM directly observed weapons in violation of the respective withdrawal lines. In government-controlled areas the SMM observed 11 MLRS (BM-21) near Malynivka (82km north of Donetsk) and 11 self-propelled howitzers (2S3 Akatsia, 152mm) near Bohoiavlenka (46km south-west of Donetsk).
Beyond withdrawal lines but outside a storage site, the SMM saw a surface-to-air missile system (9K33 Osa) near government-controlled Spirne (96km north of Donetsk).
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 government-controlled areas, the SMM noted as present: six surface-to-air missile systems of which four were (9K35 Strela, 120mm) and two (9K33); and 23 self-propelled howitzers (six 2S3 and 17 2S1 Gvozdika, 122mm), one present for the first time. The SMM observed that ten tanks (T-72); 44 self-propelled howitzers (11 (2S3) and 33 (2S1)); one MLRS (BM-21); 30 mortars (2B11 Sani, 120mm); four surface-to-air missile systems (9K35); and three anti-tank guns (D-44, 85mm) were again missing, while one self-propelled howitzer (2S3) was missing for the first time. Four sites remained abandoned, with 18 self-propelled howitzers, (six (2S1) and 12 (2S19 Msta-S, 152mm)); 12 towed howitzers (D-30, 122mm) and 12 mortars (2B11) missing.
The SMM revisited two permanent storage sites in government-controlled areas, whose locations corresponded with the withdrawal lines and noted that 17 tanks (T-64B) were again missing. One site was again abandoned, with nine tanks (T-64) and three mortars (2B9M Vasilek, 82mm) missing.
The SMM also observed an armoured combat vehicle and an anti-aircraft gun in the security zone, including an armoured personnel carrier (MT-LB) mounted on a trailer, heading north-west near Shchastia and an anti-aircraft gun (ZU-23-1) near “LPR”-controlled Krasnyi Lyman (30km north-west of Luhansk).
The SMM continued to note long queues of civilians at entry-exit checkpoints. At the entry-exit checkpoint in Horlivka the SMM observed 163 civilian cars and nine buses queuing towards government-controlled areas. A group of 15 women (between 40 and 60 years old) said that they lived in an area located between two checkpoints in Horlivka and that 20 children from that area had to walk through the checkpoint (about 2km) to catch a bus. They said that the bus service had been unable to reach their village for the last few days due to long queues at the checkpoint.
The SMM continued to observe long lines of 1,000-1,500 pedestrians at the checkpoints on the Stanytsia Luhanska bridge. According to those staffing the checkpoints an increased number of people were travelling to government-controlled areas to confirm their bank registrations.
Following a decision by the National Security and Defence Council on suspension of cargo traffic across the contact line, the SMM enquired with staff of entry-exit checkpoints as to the impact. The SMM saw no immediate changes. At a checkpoint in government-controlled Maiorsk (45km north-east of Donetsk) a border guard said that there was no intention of closing it. Border guards at a government checkpoint in Marinka (23km south-west of Donetsk) said that they were unaware of any planned or announced closure, and intended to keep the checkpoint operating as usual.
The SMM monitored two border areas currently outside government control. During 15 minutes at the border crossing point in Novoazovsk (40km north-east of Mariupol), the SMM observed five civilian trucks with covered cargo areas (Russian Federation licence plates) queuing to leave Ukraine and three civilian vehicles enter Ukraine. During 20 minutes at the border crossing point in Dovzhanskyi (84km south-east of Luhansk) the SMM observed 12 civilian trucks with covered cargo areas (Ukrainian licence plates) and 19 passenger cars (most with Ukrainian licence plates) waiting to leave Ukraine. The SMM also observed 25 civilian cars (most with Ukrainian licence plates and one with “LPR” plates), one bus, one minibus with ten passengers, and five pedestrians (three men, two women) leave Ukraine and 14 passenger cars, seven civilian trucks with covered cargo areas (six with Ukrainian licence plates), one bus and 14 pedestrians (six men and eight women) enter Ukraine.
The SMM continued to monitor the blockade of railway routes across the contact line. In government-controlled Hirske (63km west of Luhansk), the SMM saw that wooden barriers and barbed wire were still blocking the tracks. Thirteen activists wearing military-style clothes were present. A police car was parked nearby. At the blockade site in Bakhmut the SMM observed reinforcement of the blockade, including at least one additional tent, wooden fences and barbed wire, and about 60-70 activists (different age groups, only one woman) compared with 10 on 13 March.
At the blockade site near government-controlled Shcherbynivka (44km north of Donetsk) the SMM observed about 30 people in military-style uniforms, as well as a military-type tent, seven armoured vehicles and several camouflage jeeps, and no presence of activists. The Mission saw vehicular traffic and one train loaded with coal travel through. (See SMM Daily Report 15 March 2017).
In Dnipro, Kyiv and Ivano-Frankivsk the SMM monitored public gatherings in support of the blockade. In Dnipro, on the evening of 14 March, the SMM observed about 50 people (in their late thirties, 90 per cent men) gathered in front of the regional administration building. Some of them carried Right Sector flags and a Svoboda political party flag. The SMM saw some of the protestors speaking with the deputy governor of Dnipropetrovsk region. About 50 police officers were present at the protest site, as well as media. The gathering was peaceful.
In Kyiv, on the evening of 14 March, the SMM observed about 600 people (85 per cent middle-aged men) gathered on Maidan Nezalezhnosti. The Mission saw six tables and a green tent in the area where, according to a member of parliament present, activists were registering more supporters. A speaker stated that the current gathering was not a new Maidan, but a new form of resistance against the current authorities. Later about 400 of the 600 protesters walked towards the Akhmetov Company office building at 3A Desiatynna Street. About 350 law enforcement officers (both police and National Guard) were present in the area. The SMM saw people light flares, causing smoke, and throw about 40 pyrotechnics outside the office building. After 15 minutes, the group left the venue.
At around 20:30 the group went outside the Alpha Bank branch at 14 Khreshchatyk Street. The bank was cordoned off by about 40 riot police officers, and traffic police officers had blocked the traffic. The SMM saw some of the protestors throwing large stones, breaking the reinforced windows of the bank. Some engaged in small clashes with the police as the protestors attempted to break the police cordon. One masked protestor climbed the side of a wall and destroyed the bank’s neon logo. The SMM saw police officers carrying teargas spray and some protestors seeking medical care. There was a large media presence at the site. About an hour later the majority of protestors started to slowly disperse.
In Ivano-Frankivsk, the SMM observed a city council meeting in which the deputies approved an appeal to the national government in support of the blockade. About 15 people in camouflage clothing who said they were Anti-Terrorism Operation veterans were present. A police officer was also present.
On 15 March, following reports of a protest outside a Sberbank bank branch in Dnipro the SMM visited the location. Some people present told the SMM that protestors had tried to block the entrance of the bank. The Mission saw that the windows of the bank had been covered in posters and exterior walls had been daubed in paint. A tent in the colours of the National Corps flag had been erected nearby. Four police officers were present. Outside a branch of the same bank in Kyiv (See SMM Daily Report 15 March 2017), the SMM observed throughout the day 30-70 young men (16 to 23 years old), who presented themselves as National Corps activists, sitting on bean bags and standing in front of the bank.
The SMM continued monitoring in Kherson, Odessa, Lviv, Kharkiv, 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:
- At the Stanytsia Luhanska disengagement area, a Ukrainian officer of the JCCC told the SMM that its safety could still not be guaranteed in the areas surrounding the main road due to the possible presence of mines and UXO. The SMM informed the JCCC.
- The possible presence of mines and UXO prevented the SMM from travelling further south-east into the Zolote disengagement area from Katerynivka. The SMM again informed the JCCC.
- At an “LPR” checkpoint at the edge of the Zolote disengagement area, armed men told the SMM that its safety could still not be guaranteed in the fields and side roads due to the possible presence of mines and UXO. The SMM informed the JCCC.
- Ukrainian Armed Forces personnel again stopped the SMM on the road between Katerynivka and Popasna and told the Mission that the road was mined and it could not proceed without authorization from senior Ukrainian Armed Forces officers. The Mission again informed the JCCC.
- A Ukrainian officer of the JCCC told the SMM that the Ukrainian Armed Forces did not control the road from Bohdanivka to Viktorivka (42km south-west of Donetsk) and thus could not ensure security for the SMM to travel, adding that anti-tank mines were still present on the road to Petrivske via Viktorivka. The SMM informed the JCCC.
- The SMM could still not travel south of the bridge in government-controlled Shchastia as Ukrainian Armed Forces personnel said there were mines on the road south of the bridge. The SMM again informed the JCCC.
- At the westernmost edge “DPR”-controlled Syhnalne (23km south-west of Donetsk) two “DPR” members (one carrying a pistol, the other an assault-type rifle) in camouflage uniform approached the SMM in a dark green camouflage vehicle “Lada Niva”. One of them told the SMM to leave the village immediately, adding that the SMM needed special permission to monitor near the contact line in that area. The SMM explained that its mandate provides for full and unhindered access. Nevertheless, the armed “DPR” member insisted that the SMM leave the area.
- A Ukrainian Armed Forces commander denied the SMM access to a compound in the vicinity of Topolyne (19km north-west of Mariupol). The SMM informed the JCCC.
* Please see the section at the end of this report entitled “Restrictions of SMM’s freedom of movement or other impediments to fulfilment of its mandate”.
 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.
 This hardware is not proscribed by the provisions of the Minsk agreements on the withdrawal of weapons.